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Awaclus

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Obstacles: Beyond the Five Deck Types
« on: September 14, 2017, 06:57:31 am »
+27

Obstacles: Beyond the Five Deck Types

In this article, I attempt to lay down a very basic framework for generalizing Dominion strategy even further than it has previously been, which I think is necessary due to the increasing number of different types of strategies. Traditionally, unusual strategies have been called "combo" decks, but I think the term has outlived its usefulness and that we need a framework that actually helps us understand why those decks work instead of describing superficial attributes about them.

Part 1 – Obstacles

It would be convenient if you could do whatever and it would always be a functional strategy. However, this is not the case. In Dominion, there are many things that limit your ability to do whatever you want. They include:
  • Your starting deck consists of crappy cards
  • The main source of VP comes from putting crappy cards into your deck
  • You only get 5 cards and 1 buy every turn
  • You can only play one Action card every turn
  • When you buy a card, it takes a while before you even get to use it at all
  • You don’t always draw cards in the order you would like
  • In order to win, you need to be able to end the game by emptying the Provinces, Colonies or any three piles while you’re ahead

At this point, you might be thinking that all of what I just said is completely obvious, in which case you would be absolutely correct. However, you cannot dismiss the importance of these factors simply because they are obvious — on the contrary, they are obvious because of how important they are. When you are designing a strategy, you need to have a solution to each of these problems, otherwise it’s not going to work. Let’s refer to these seven points as the obstacles, because I’m going to be referring to them a lot.

For now, let’s just focus on some strategies that are already established.

Big money (also known as good stuff)

This is a fairly common strategy, because it’s available in every kingdom. It’s also extremely simple to play. Here’s how big money overcomes the obstacles:

  • You add many high-quality cards to your deck to bring the average card quality up from what it originally was (you might also trash some of the starting cards but that’s not necessary)
  • As you’re greening, you can keep adding more high-quality cards to your deck to compensate for the green cards, so that the average quality remains high enough. Also, green cards will take a while to show up because your deck is fairly big and you’re not cycling through it very fast.
  • You keep the average card quality high enough that 5 cards are enough to make the most use out of that one buy
  • The high-quality cards you add to your deck are mostly Treasures or non-terminal Actions. You can add as many terminal Actions as the rest of your deck can support without having a big risk of terminal collision or cards that are drawn dead.
  • On the other hand, when big money buys a green card, it also takes a while for that to show up. The effect is more pronounced during the greening stage due to having a larger deck, so big money actually benefits from this obstacle to an extent.
  • All the high-quality cards you buy are good on their own, have very little or no negative synergies with other cards in your deck and/or synergize with almost all the other cards in your deck, so the order in which they’re drawn doesn’t matter much — all of your hands are good anyway.
  • Your strategy is able to maintain a steady rate of gaining VP through Provinces or Colonies after a relatively short build-up, which ultimately leads to the Provinces or Colonies being depleted.

Look at how efficient that is. Buying a lot of Treasure cards is, in and of itself, a solution to five of these completely unrelated problems. The solution to greening includes slow cycling, and the solution to slow cycling includes greening. All of this just happens to result in a convenient way to get ahead and end while you’re ahead. That is why big money is a strategy that works, and may sometimes be competitive against other types of decks.

Hermit/Market Square

Hermit/Market Square is a rare strategy, because it requires Hermit and Market Square to be in the kingdom. Here are its solutions to the obstacles:

  • Your crappy starting cards are good enough for buying Hermit and Market Square, and that is all they will ever need to do
  • You do all or most of your greening in one turn so those green cards won’t be ruining your hands for the vast majority of the game. Furthermore, after pulling off the combo, your deck will be full of Golds so you’re still in a decent position to buy more green much like a big money strategy would.
  • The combo gives you your entire deck plus a bunch of Golds to your hand and a ton of buys when you pull it off.
  • One action per turn is enough to set the combo up, and the combo gives you enough actions to pull itself off.
  • Slow cycling is fine, because you don’t need the newly bought cards until the moment at which you pull off the combo, which is also the moment at which you’re able to cycle through your entire deck.
  • You have so many copies of all the relevant cards that you’re very likely to draw them in an order that you will like
  • With all of those Golds and buys, it’s very easy to gain a VP lead and end the game on the spot. If not, there’s still the big money style Plan B.

In terms of efficiency, this rivals big money (in terms of strength, it tends to surpass big money, but that’s beside the point for now) because the quite detailed way in which the combo needs to be pulled off simultaneously solves each obstacle.

As you can imagine, many other strategies that have been traditionally considered to be combo strategies have a different set of solutions. Therefore, it does not make sense to classify them as the same strategy; instead, Hermit/Market Square should be seen as an entire deck type of its own.

Two sentences about Attacks

Attacks and other interactive cards, when present, might create additional obstacles for that particular kingdom that you will need to address in addition to these seven, or they might modify the existing ones. Some solutions to the seven main obstacles will already deal with certain Attacks very easily, while others might completely fall apart.

A “Deck type” or “strategy” is an elegant answer to all of the obstacles

All the different decks with the same answers are the same type of deck. In other words, the number of Action cards you’re playing, the number of Treasure cards you’re playing, the length of the game in turns, whether or not the strategy is only enabled by a rare combination of cards being available, and all these other superficial things that some like to use for the purposes of categorization are completely useless from a strategy perspective.

Figuring out the answers that rushes, slogs and engines have, respectively, is left as an exercise to the reader because this article is long enough as it is.

Part 2 – Beyond the five types

Wandering Winder defined four types of strategy. Then he lumped the rest of them together and called them “combo” strategies, the fifth type. However, as I already mentioned in the previous part, combo decks don’t really have all that much in common with each other, which is why they shouldn't be seen as a single type of strategy. Whereas you can hurt big money decks with hand size attacks, there is no universal way to play against all combo decks.

Still, there are some useful ways to categorize those kinds of decks as well. The one fairly well established category is golden deck. These days, there are many different ways to build a golden deck, and it is a useful category because all golden decks have the same solutions to the obstacles.

Another useful category is a term I’m coining right now: the stockpile. The stockpile is a type of deck that accumulates large quantities of Reserve cards, cards on the Native Village mat, coin tokens, and/or other such resources and then it suddenly uses all of them for a megaturn. Examples of stockpiles include Native Village/Bridge, Royal Carriage/Bridge, and Duplicate/Bridge.

As the number of possible kingdoms in Dominion is limited by how many cards there are, technically there can’t be an infinite number of different deck types. The point is that even if there was, this framework should be all-encompassing. The other point is that the number can be very large, and it’s very likely much larger than we currently imagine it to be — in other words, there are deck types waiting to be discovered.

Going for unconventional strategies

If you’re thinking of going for a strategy that isn’t big money, rush, slog, engine, or another established strategy, it is a good idea to figure out how your strategy would address the obstacles. While it is also possible to stumble upon a legitimate strategy through pure trial-and-error (which is largely how many of them have been discovered), it is much easier if you can rule out some of the more ineffective ideas simply by taking a moment to consider them through.

For instance, a popular thing to build is an engine/big money hybrid, but that's one of the more ineffective ideas. Consider obstacle #6 ("You don’t always draw cards in the order you would like") in a kingdom with Village and Smithy. Like with most card synergies, Village/Smithy synergize only when drawn in the right order. The problem with playing a hybrid between big money and engine here is this: big money's solution is to avoid too many Villages/Smithies, so cards are good in any order, while engine's solution is to get lots of Villages/Smithies so they can be paired easily, especially since pairing them draws you more cards. If you play a hybrid, you'll end up having enough Villages and Smithies that the cards are no longer good in any order, but not enough that they can be paired easily, resulting in terminal collisions, Villages drawn dead, and Villages drawn without a Smithy in your hand.

However, the stockpile is a type of strategy that does actually mix quite well with many other deck types; for instance, a big money/stockpile hybrid is just as strong as pure big money. This is due to the fact that cards like Butcher and Transmogrify are reasonably strong cards on their own, so that matches up with five of the big money solutions, and the way in which they change greening gives you the best of both worlds — you can delay the negative effect of greening by having gaining power set aside for a while, and you can also keep adding good cards while you’re greening, because these things aren’t mutually exclusive.

There are also the very rare types of strategies only enabled by a specific card interaction that we don’t talk about because we still haven’t discovered them. For obvious reasons, I can’t give you an example. I also can’t really tell you how to be able to discover more of them. But what I can tell you is that the obstacles apply universally in all games of Dominion ever, so you’re going to need the elegant solution.

The parting words

With all that being said, this idea is relatively new, so it might also be incomplete. You can sort of see its evolution if you look at my posts from the past year or so; within that time, I have moved from firmly sticking with WW’s deck types (including “combo”) to claiming that hoarding coin tokens should be classified as its own strategy even though it sucks, to claiming that Native Village/Bridge is also the same strategy as the coin token hoarding strategy and that it should no longer be classified as a combo deck, to claiming that golden decks are another legitimate deck type, and now we have this.

I might be failing to see some obstacles that are actually there. I have already considered some rules of the game that kind of hinder you a little, such as not being able to look through your discard pile or not being able to see your opponent’s hand, but you can’t really fix those with deckbuilding so I don’t see a reason to treat them as obstacles.

Ultimately, I think that as the number and the complexity of card-shaped things keeps going up, we are going to see more and more of completely new types of strategies, and simply calling them all “combo” is not going to make us prepared for them. There certainly needs to be some kind of a framework that allows us to understand what made a strategy work even when it doesn’t fit our preconceived notions of how strategies should be categorized. This has been an early attempt at it.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2017, 01:34:12 pm by Awaclus »
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2017, 07:31:37 am »
+3

Interesting. So would you say that "engine" actually is a term that encompasses multiple similar, but not identical, strategies? For example two different kinds of engines could have the following solutions to your obstacles:

Trashing megaturn engine
  • I trash all or most of the crappy cards, leaving mostly good ones.
  • I gain most/all of the crappy cards on my final turn.
  • I acquire cards that make sure I can draw more cards and gain more cards.
  • I acquire cards that make sure I can play many Action cards (either because they're cantrips or splitter+terminal)
  • Since I draw my deck every turn, it only takes one turn to use them.
  • My deck is thin enough that I will mostly draw cards that I like.
  • When I pull the megaturn, my deck can three-pile while gaining enough VP cards to get ahead.

Sifting VP-removal engine
  • I get enough cards that can filter out the crap, and gain enough cards such that the crap only makes up a small amount of my deck.
  • I can remove the crappy cards from my deck for a while (e.g. Distant Lands), and sift through those I keep.
  • I acquire cards that make sure I can draw more cards and gain more cards.
  • I acquire cards that make sure I can play many Action cards (either because they're cantrips or splitter+terminal)
  • Since I filter through my deck every turn, it only takes one turn to use them. Also I can gain cards mid-turn to use the same turn.
  • I have enough sifters to get the cards I want in my hand.
  • I acquire a lead without slowing down, and then can either three-pile or hit the Provinces/Colonies until they run out.
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Awaclus

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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2017, 08:16:55 am »
0

Interesting. So would you say that "engine" actually is a term that encompasses multiple similar, but not identical, strategies? For example two different kinds of engines could have the following solutions to your obstacles:

Trashing megaturn engine
  • I trash all or most of the crappy cards, leaving mostly good ones.
  • I gain most/all of the crappy cards on my final turn.
  • I acquire cards that make sure I can draw more cards and gain more cards.
  • I acquire cards that make sure I can play many Action cards (either because they're cantrips or splitter+terminal)
  • Since I draw my deck every turn, it only takes one turn to use them.
  • My deck is thin enough that I will mostly draw cards that I like.
  • When I pull the megaturn, my deck can three-pile while gaining enough VP cards to get ahead.

Sifting VP-removal engine
  • I get enough cards that can filter out the crap, and gain enough cards such that the crap only makes up a small amount of my deck.
  • I can remove the crappy cards from my deck for a while (e.g. Distant Lands), and sift through those I keep.
  • I acquire cards that make sure I can draw more cards and gain more cards.
  • I acquire cards that make sure I can play many Action cards (either because they're cantrips or splitter+terminal)
  • Since I filter through my deck every turn, it only takes one turn to use them. Also I can gain cards mid-turn to use the same turn.
  • I have enough sifters to get the cards I want in my hand.
  • I acquire a lead without slowing down, and then can either three-pile or hit the Provinces/Colonies until they run out.

I guess so. What I had in mind is a generalized engine, but that's not really wrong either — for me, that makes it a little bit more difficult to see why it works because I have to abstract those descriptions a bit before it's obvious that #6 is basically buying engine components in the correct proportions while minimizing stop cards in your deck and then every other point just automatically solves itself once you have that sorted out. But I can also imagine that my way of presenting these solutions in a way that's already abstracted makes it more difficult for some people to see what you're actually supposed to do in practice.
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2017, 11:50:27 am »
+3

I like this. As well as being relevant to deck-type classification, it also provides a practically useful way to assess a board.

Normally when I look at a board, the first question I ask myself is "Can I build an engine here?"

I think I could translate that question into trying to solve your obstacles, but limiting myself to a subset of solutions, the 'engine' solutions. Eg:
- For solving obstacle 1 I'm looking for (i) trashing (ii) sifting or (iii) excellent draw.
- For solving obstacle 2 I'm looking for (i) alt-VP that do useful things (ii) good economy and +buy to delay the time until I need to add VP or (iii) a way to slow down my opponent's deck, again to delay the time until I need to add VP.

So I suppose that makes 3*3=9 potential deck types already, and I've only looked at the first two obstacles, and only with 'engine' solutions. But at this stage we're not really interested in the number of deck types, and you certainly don't want to try to name them if they get generated this way.

Now your suggestion is to come at the obstacles with a more open mind. There might be new solutions to some of the obstacles, and there will almost certainly be new ways of combining existing solutions if the right cards are present on the board. That would be the interesting bit.

I'd like to spend some time considering things in this framework. But before going too far, I think the value of this framework would be affected by how well-classified the starting obstacles are.
So can I ask how much thought did you put in to your seven obstacles? Eg do you have a reason for lumping "5 cards and 1 buy" together?
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2017, 01:25:12 pm »
0

The stockpile as a deck type is a great observation. In fact, I would argue that Hermit/Market Square is a typical stockpile where the things you're piling up on are Madmen and Market Squares. However, I do agree that there are hybrides and continua between the deck types. A Hunting Party stack is an engine/money hybrid to me. I have a hard time imagining, for example, a slog/golden deck hybrid though.

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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2017, 01:44:00 pm »
+1

The stockpile as a deck type is a great observation. In fact, I would argue that Hermit/Market Square is a typical stockpile where the things you're piling up on are Madmen and Market Squares. However, I do agree that there are hybrides and continua between the deck types. A Hunting Party stack is an engine/money hybrid to me. I have a hard time imagining, for example, a slog/golden deck hybrid though.

I think a hunting party stack is just a straight engine. You're not just adding as much good stuff as possible to your deck to maintain average quality. Your goal is to draw your deck each turn and play your payload, usually consisting of differently named treasures and a single non-drawing terminal action.
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2017, 01:56:41 pm »
+6

I think this is a useful article, but I think the title puts the focus in the wrong place. In my opinion, the valuable insight here is thinking about the "obstacles" and the need to determine a strategy that can address each one. I worry that your current title just encourages the latest argument about deck types and how we define them, rather than the value of your perspective
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2017, 02:01:06 pm »
+4

Where do attacks fit in?  The attack part doesn't seem to address any particular obstacle, but it seems odd to say that attacks are never a fundamental part of one's strategy.

As far as writing a blog-worthy article, I would say there are a few tweaks that could be made.  The goal of the article should be more clear at the beginning (IMO the goal is to better describe deck types instead than throwing all the unusual decks into a "combo" category).  There are a bunch of ideas mentioned that you don't really explain, which you could probably find links for (especially the hermit/market square deck, the golden deck, native village/bridge, and WW's strategy classification).  Also, I don't exactly follow the argument against a BM/engine hybrid, and that's when I have already heard you say the same stuff before.  Most readers wouldn't have any idea what you're talking about.

Anyway, good article.
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2017, 02:08:54 pm »
+4

I like this. As well as being relevant to deck-type classification, it also provides a practically useful way to assess a board.

Normally when I look at a board, the first question I ask myself is "Can I build an engine here?"

I think I could translate that question into trying to solve your obstacles, but limiting myself to a subset of solutions, the 'engine' solutions. Eg:
- For solving obstacle 1 I'm looking for (i) trashing (ii) sifting or (iii) excellent draw.
- For solving obstacle 2 I'm looking for (i) alt-VP that do useful things (ii) good economy and +buy to delay the time until I need to add VP or (iii) a way to slow down my opponent's deck, again to delay the time until I need to add VP.

So I suppose that makes 3*3=9 potential deck types already, and I've only looked at the first two obstacles, and only with 'engine' solutions. But at this stage we're not really interested in the number of deck types, and you certainly don't want to try to name them if they get generated this way.

Now your suggestion is to come at the obstacles with a more open mind. There might be new solutions to some of the obstacles, and there will almost certainly be new ways of combining existing solutions if the right cards are present on the board. That would be the interesting bit.

I'd like to spend some time considering things in this framework. But before going too far, I think the value of this framework would be affected by how well-classified the starting obstacles are.
So can I ask how much thought did you put in to your seven obstacles? Eg do you have a reason for lumping "5 cards and 1 buy" together?

I second thinking about this.  It would be interesting to try to think of all the ways to solve all of the obstacles, and that could help when playing as well.

Also, Awaclus, you either missed or purposefully omitted obstacle 4 when discussing Hermit/Market Square, and it confused me a lot when reading.  If you meant to omit it, maybe you could say so?  Or number your obstacles?
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2017, 02:21:28 pm »
+6

Where do attacks fit in?  The attack part doesn't seem to address any particular obstacle, but it seems odd to say that attacks are never a fundamental part of one's strategy.

Thinking about deck building under the framework of obstacles is interesting.  Awaclus presents obstacles that are in every game of Dominion.  I think attacks can be framed as potential obstacles in the kingdoms they appear in.  For example, when Militia is in the kingdom, there's an additional obstacle that, on any given turn, you may need to discard down to 3 cards.  When Witch is in the kingdom, there's an additional obstacle that you might get as many as 10 Curses added you your deck.  Etc...  And playing attacks of your own imposes obstacles on your opponent.
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2017, 02:33:19 pm »
+1

Where do attacks fit in?  The attack part doesn't seem to address any particular obstacle, but it seems odd to say that attacks are never a fundamental part of one's strategy.

I think they fit into the while you're ahead portion of the last obstacle. Slowing down your opponent is a means to achieving this in addition to accumulating VP in your own deck.
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Awaclus

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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2017, 06:21:00 pm »
0

So can I ask how much thought did you put in to your seven obstacles? Eg do you have a reason for lumping "5 cards and 1 buy" together?

I put months of thought into figuring out what all the core obstacles are, but I put maybe 15 minutes of thought into coming up with these exact seven. I lumped 5 cards and 1 buy together because those are the "free resources" you get every turn that fairly directly correlate with your buying power that turn, and also because I couldn't think of a reason why it makes any practical difference whether or not they are grouped together so I did, in order to save some space.

Where do attacks fit in?  The attack part doesn't seem to address any particular obstacle, but it seems odd to say that attacks are never a fundamental part of one's strategy.

Well, for example, Swamp Hag is a good card so you want it in a big money strategy. For engines, you want payload, and attack cards are that. They are just some potential ways of implementing the solutions in practice, but you can also very easily build both types of decks without any attacks.

As far as writing a blog-worthy article, I would say there are a few tweaks that could be made.  The goal of the article should be more clear at the beginning (IMO the goal is to better describe deck types instead than throwing all the unusual decks into a "combo" category).  There are a bunch of ideas mentioned that you don't really explain, which you could probably find links for (especially the hermit/market square deck, the golden deck, native village/bridge, and WW's strategy classification).  Also, I don't exactly follow the argument against a BM/engine hybrid, and that's when I have already heard you say the same stuff before.  Most readers wouldn't have any idea what you're talking about.

Thanks for the feedback! I actually couldn't find a link for the golden deck, but I tried to modify the article to address the other things you brought up.

Also, Awaclus, you either missed or purposefully omitted obstacle 4 when discussing Hermit/Market Square, and it confused me a lot when reading.  If you meant to omit it, maybe you could say so?  Or number your obstacles?

That was a mistake. Fixed and numbered the obstacles.

Thinking about deck building under the framework of obstacles is interesting.  Awaclus presents obstacles that are in every game of Dominion.  I think attacks can be framed as potential obstacles in the kingdoms they appear in.  For example, when Militia is in the kingdom, there's an additional obstacle that, on any given turn, you may need to discard down to 3 cards.  When Witch is in the kingdom, there's an additional obstacle that you might get as many as 10 Curses added you your deck.  Etc...  And playing attacks of your own imposes obstacles on your opponent.

This is a good point.
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2017, 07:34:21 pm »
+1

I don't understand how this article and the opinions expressed in it is congruent with the extremely rigid and strict definitions you hold for terms like engine, combo, rush, etc. and your insistence that you have to understand and use the terms exactly as you do to play dominion - and that the terms perfectly describe exactly how to play all strategies that fall under their umbrellas. This seems like a big departure from that.
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2017, 07:56:36 pm »
0

I don't understand how this article and the opinions expressed in it is congruent with the extremely rigid and strict definitions you hold for terms like engine, combo, rush, etc. and your insistence that you have to understand and use the terms exactly as you do to play dominion - and that the terms perfectly describe exactly how to play all strategies that fall under their umbrellas. This seems like a big departure from that.

I don't hold a definition for combo. Engines and rushes are rigidly and strictly defined through how they overcome the obstacles in a way that perfectly describes exactly how to play all engines and rushes, respectively.
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Seprix

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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2017, 01:51:38 am »
+5

What does Rush mean? In what context? Is a Rush something that ends the game very quickly, or faster than engine building can pay off? What is a slog? In what context? WanderingWinder himself says in his prized article “The 4 Deck Types” in the opening paragraphs that it is hard to contain deck types into one specific type, and that some strategies bleed into one another. For example, WanderingWinder played Big Money in a certain framework. The question in his mind was whether the engine could get going in time before Big Money piles Provinces. In that sense, Big Money could be considered a Rush, albeit a slower one.

So the entire concept of Big Money can be instantly dropped, just like that. All of Big Money is a Rush of sorts, in the engine-centric view. And to those who protest, why shouldn’t Dominion be considered in an engine-centric light? Rushes and Slogs and Big Money are now the exception, not the norm. Engines dominate the meta playing field.

But wait, there’s more trouble. Rushes can also be considered Engines in a certain framework. What is an engine, but playing a bunch of Action cards for a bigger benefit? For example, there is playing the Lurker Hunting Grounds rush. That’s a bunch of Actions being played a turn with a big benefit of ending the game incredibly quickly with a massive points lead for the amount of turns allotted.

We’re not done yet. There’s more! Lurker and Hunting Grounds can also be considered a Combo Deck! It is a specific interaction between two cards within the rules of the game that doesn’t happen otherwise! No other card in the game trashes from the Supply in the way that Lurker does. And to those who say all Combo decks are engines, what about Scavenger Stash Big Money? That’s a specific rules interaction, and there’s only one Action card played a turn. Unless you’re willing to call standard Smithy Big Money an engine, I don’t think that’s going to work.

And what the heck is a Slog? Funnily enough, Wandering Winder isn’t entirely sure himself in his articles. He has some tips for you to know if you’re in a slog, such as the trends of buying Duchies often, or Alt-VP, or prevalent Copper in your deck. Essentially, a junked up deck of sorts, either by VP, bad cards, or both. He also stipulates that a Slog is a hybrid between a Rush and Big Money, which is not all that helpful given all of the ambiguity.

And does all of this thinking really help people play Dominion better? I think it does to a certain extent. However, I think most of the top players have outgrown the entire thought system without even realizing it. Allow me to demonstrate.

What is the goal of the game? The goal of the game is to win, which involves finding the best strategy on any given board. The purpose of cataloguing deck types is to organize, and organizing streamlines the thinking process when analyzing the board, leading to better decision making processes. But does the 4 Deck Types actually help?

In order for a system to work well, it needs to be able to classify strategies quickly and efficiently, such as:

-Lurker/Possession
-Rebuild/Mountain Pass
-Goons games
-Games with Cultist/Mountebank but also an engine
-Donate with Wall and Big Money
-A fast engine that gains one province a turn but never uses money
-A slow engine with an attack and one buy
-Bishop Golden decks (true Golden decks) and pseudo Golden decks (decks that effectively do the same thing but on a much larger scale)
-A Lurker/Catacombs/Silk Road Rush
-Duchy/Duke with Cursing
-Baths Rush
-Pin decks
-Hermit/Market Square
-Native Village Bridge
-Mass Merchant Guild Token Engines

What is in common with these? Interactions between cards on a board. Are the interactions between Smithy and Silver stronger than the interactions between Minion and Hermit? The world may never know. This is a far more helpful way of thinking about Kingdoms. There are so many kinds of strategies and hybrids of strategies, and it’s hard to call something one thing or another. Quite often, something falls into two or even three types of decks! That seems more likely to create confusion than help a player.

Wandering Winder’s advice has been accepted in general today because it has been in the past. It was more correct than no answer at all. But now, it is largely useless advice. It is very difficult to define many Dominion deck types, and it doesn’t help much with winning anymore. As Awaclus has said, calling every new type of strategy a “combo” isn’t going to be terribly useful. But I stipulate that calling things Stockpile or Golden Deck isn’t very helpful either.

Dominion is essentially the progressive dream. You can’t put it into a box. There’s always some exception that spits in your face. That is why I think this conversation is ultimately pointless to pursue. I like defining things, and I have tried forever and a day to fit deck types into categories. Such a pursuit is only useful in terms of what to call things, and vague terms already work just fine. After all, we’ve been using them for ages. When I call Big Money a rush, you might object but you still get what I’m talking about, because it’s dependent on the board being seen. It’s vaguely correct. There’s a collection of stereotyped descriptors for certain words, like thinking of a river as wet, or of a woman as a nurse or of Donald X. as a bullfighter. The stereotypes in Dominion work because they are fuzzily and collectively correct, but they are not a fantastic way to analyze a board.

Anyways, the point of all of this writing is to say, streamlining isn’t going to improve by contemplating absurdities such as precise definitions, which will never come to fruition. The only important thing is interactions between cards on any given board.

The main thing I would say is the most helpful with new players with the 4 Deck types is that it helps players look at boards that are not engine and go for the better strategies that involve driving Provinces down before the dude stops buying nothing but Villages. Past that, I don't see a reason to ever encourage much discussion about the 4 deck types, or any iterations of it.

If you want a definition of an engine, I have one for you, and it's essentially what it means anyways, despite feeling a little weird about calling Scavenger Stash an engine: Engines are decks of stronger interaction. I don't think Actions are necessary to call something an engine, and it's mainly because Action cards are what you play that they happen to be engines, not the other way around.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2017, 01:57:01 am by Seprix »
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #15 on: September 15, 2017, 02:40:02 am »
+5

I thought this article was pretty interesting. Seprix has a good point, that new terminology or classification probably isn't going to be really useful for the top players, but like he said, WW's original deck type article was designed to help newer players evaluate boards differently in order to help them make better decisions about what type of deck they should try to build on any given kingdom.  This article does the same thing in a way by describing the obstacles that you have to overcome and helping newer players think through what exactly different strategies will do to overcome them, instead of just thinking in terms of "Are there cards that will let me build an engine here or not?"  I think focusing too much on Awaclus's specific classifications misses the most valuable part of the article, imho.

Having said that, I do like his classification of the stockpile in particular. After reading the 4 Deck Types, I thought about decks like native village/bridge in terms of combos of specific cards, and it took way longer than it could have to realize there were quite a few different ways of accomplishing basically the same type of thing using several different cards. Especially with the possibility of new expansions introducing even more ways of building stockpiles, I believe thinking of these decks in terms of a new category rather than the specific combos would be pretty helpful for growing players.
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #16 on: September 15, 2017, 05:02:15 am »
+3

What does Rush mean?

Rush is a deck that uses cards like Workshop or Rebuild to circumvent building at all.

What is a slog?

Slog is a deck that utilizes the opening Coppers to start greening faster to prevent the opponent from being able to win.

So the entire concept of Big Money can be instantly dropped, just like that.

It can't be dropped. There are the obstacles, big money is a solution.

All of Big Money is a Rush of sorts, in the engine-centric view. And to those who protest, why shouldn’t Dominion be considered in an engine-centric light? Rushes and Slogs and Big Money are now the exception, not the norm. Engines dominate the meta playing field.

That has to do with Who's the Beatdown, not with deck types.

But wait, there’s more trouble. Rushes can also be considered Engines in a certain framework. What is an engine, but playing a bunch of Action cards for a bigger benefit? For example, there is playing the Lurker Hunting Grounds rush. That’s a bunch of Actions being played a turn with a big benefit of ending the game incredibly quickly with a massive points lead for the amount of turns allotted.

Engine is this. It's completely unhelpful to categorize Lurker/Hunting Grounds as an engine deck just because you play 2-3 Action cards in a turn. You don't build at all, you don't draw your deck at all, you just green immediately after you're done gaining the Lurkers. As I already said in the article, what you are doing superficially doesn't matter.

We’re not done yet. There’s more! Lurker and Hunting Grounds can also be considered a Combo Deck! It is a specific interaction between two cards within the rules of the game that doesn’t happen otherwise! No other card in the game trashes from the Supply in the way that Lurker does. And to those who say all Combo decks are engines, what about Scavenger Stash Big Money? That’s a specific rules interaction, and there’s only one Action card played a turn. Unless you’re willing to call standard Smithy Big Money an engine, I don’t think that’s going to work.

As I already said in the article, combo deck is a useless definition because what you are doing superficially doesn't matter.

And what the heck is a Slog?

I already explained this.

But I stipulate that calling things Stockpile or Golden Deck isn’t very helpful either.

It is as helpful as these strategies are common. You play all stockpiles the same because they are all the same strategy, and the same is true for golden decks. Out of a few hundred games, you are probably going to see at least one instance of both, so I'd say that it's worth knowing about them.

When I call Big Money a rush, you might object but you still get what I’m talking about, because it’s dependent on the board being seen. It’s vaguely correct.

Yes, I am perfectly aware that you are using deck type terminology to describe the concepts of beatdown and control, which is why I get what you're talking about, but that doesn't mean that using deck type terminology when you're talking about beatdown and control is going to be very helpful in the grand Scheme of things.

There’s a collection of stereotyped descriptors for certain words, like thinking of a river as wet, or of a woman as a nurse or of Donald X. as a bullfighter. The stereotypes in Dominion work because they are fuzzily and collectively correct, but they are not a fantastic way to analyze a board.

They are nowhere near enough to analyze a board on their own, but nobody has ever said that they were supposed to be. They do help, however, by being a way to abstract the board.

If you want a definition of an engine, I have one for you, and it's essentially what it means anyways, despite feeling a little weird about calling Scavenger Stash an engine: Engines are decks of stronger interaction.

All decks are decks of stronger interaction. Scavenger/Stash is an interaction between two kingdom cards, Rebuild is an interaction between Rebuild and the starting deck and the basic supply cards.
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2017, 09:23:12 am »
+1

To be fair, if you strictly separate between decktypes and the beatdown/control issue, you may as well kill the rush. It's junky, it cycles slowly, it doesn't buy Provinces/Colonies, it profits from (some) alt-VP. The only thing that separates it from the slog is that it aims to be the beatdown.
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2017, 09:54:16 am »
0

To be fair, if you strictly separate between decktypes and the beatdown/control issue, you may as well kill the rush. It's junky, it cycles slowly, it doesn't buy Provinces/Colonies, it profits from (some) alt-VP. The only thing that separates it from the slog is that it aims to be the beatdown.

That's not true, because being junky, cycling slowly, not buying Provinces/Colonies and profiting from alt-VP aren't the answers to any obstacles, they are superficial attributes of a few rush decks (but not most of them, since almost all viable rushes involve Rebuild somehow, and that deck cycles fast, gains Provinces and doesn't require alt-VP to be present). Rushes' solutions are largely based on transcending the concept of having a good deck and having a good hand with cards like Rebuild, Ironworks+Gardens, Lurker+Hunting Grounds, etc, that allow you to play good enough turns with super awful hands.

If anything, slog is closer to big money. The differences between big money and slog are that while both build the deck, the slog only builds it slightly better or roughly as good as its initial state, and the slog doesn't try to empty Provinces, it tries to have more points than the opponent at all times. They have the same solution for all the other obstacles.
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2017, 12:28:01 pm »
+1

Rush is a deck that uses cards like Workshop or Rebuild to circumvent building at all.
I disagree. The rush does build, just less than the typical slog. There is no way to go for green starting turn one.
...being junky, cycling slowly, not buying Provinces/Colonies and profiting from alt-VP aren't the answers to any obstacles, they are superficial attributes of a few rush decks (but not most of them, since almost all viable rushes involve Rebuild somehow, and that deck cycles fast, gains Provinces and doesn't require alt-VP to be present).
Of course there are exceptions. It just so happens that Rebuild is a rather powerful (and stupid) one. I would still call Rebuild a fast slog (aka rush), since it relies on drawing key action cards, doesn't strive to do so by increasing its handsize and only needs enough economy to get to its key cards (Rebuild, Estate, sometimes Duchy).
I made the mistake of not referring to the obstacles, but to me, both rush and slog have roughly this approach:

  • You add a few key cards into your deck that allow you to buy or gain the VP you're going for. These might be gainers, terminals like Baron, or cards like Rebuild.
  • The green and other junk will dilute your deck, but this is often mitigated by cycling slowly to delay the effect (except with Rebuild, where the strong cycling incentivizes you to build slightly longer and buy even more Rebuilds). You may only need one or two of the aforementioned cards per hand to have a decent turn. Otherwise you may buy additional coppers to maintain your economy.
  • You don't really need more than five cards. After building, you use your key cards to buy or gain VP. A bigger handsize would often just lead to collision or unused money.
  • You are often perfectly content playing one terminal per turn. In other instances your key actions may be non-terminal or there are villages with low opportunity cost. You often use gainers or cards that give additional buys if you need them.
  • You only build for a few turns before diving for green. You will see your key cards just as often as other deck types early on. Later you don't even want to see the cards you buy. You may get a sifter if you anticipate to have a very junky deck.
  • You just put up with that. You have enough copies of your key cards to not be hurt too badly by them sometimes colliding or drawing them at an inopportune moment.
  • You put yourself in a VP lead early on. You either sustain that lead until you reached 50 % or you go for a three pile ending, usually on mostly VP piles.

If anything, slog is closer to big money. The differences between big money and slog are that while both build the deck, the slog only builds it slightly better or roughly as good as its initial state, and the slog doesn't try to empty Provinces, it tries to have more points than the opponent at all times. They have the same solution for all the other obstacles.
I do agree that slogs and money can be somewhat similar. Mostly because they have little control over their deck, their opponents and piles compared to engines. The main difference is really just that money decks rely on economy from treasure cards, while slogs need key action cards to have a decent turn. Embassy decks can be somewhat sloggy, sometimes just skipping gold, while Philstone or Counting House slogs may feel like money.

Rushes' solutions are largely based on transcending the concept of having a good deck and having a good hand with cards like Rebuild, Ironworks+Gardens, Lurker+Hunting Grounds, etc, that allow you to play good enough turns with super awful hands.
Well, turns out that a hand with two Lurkers and three Duchies is not so awful if there is Hunting Grounds on the board and the Duchy pile is empty on turn 9. While it would be bad to have that hand (or that deck) on most boards, it's absolutely great here. I don't think economy should be used as the primary criterion to judge a deck.

I appreciate that the obstacles offer a perspective different from the established "superficial attributes". However, like infangthief, I disagree strongly with lumping handsize and buys together as one obstacle. As faust pointed out, different subtypes of engine may deal with the obstacles in different ways. And according to yourself, money and slog are similar in terms of obstacle solutions. Therefore it's hard for me to see these obstacles as the ultimate deck type definition.
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Awaclus

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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #20 on: September 15, 2017, 02:27:29 pm »
0

  • You add a few key cards into your deck that allow you to buy or gain the VP you're going for. These might be gainers, terminals like Baron, or cards like Rebuild.
  • The green and other junk will dilute your deck, but this is often mitigated by cycling slowly to delay the effect (except with Rebuild, where the strong cycling incentivizes you to build slightly longer and buy even more Rebuilds). You may only need one or two of the aforementioned cards per hand to have a decent turn. Otherwise you may buy additional coppers to maintain your economy.
  • You don't really need more than five cards. After building, you use your key cards to buy or gain VP. A bigger handsize would often just lead to collision or unused money.
  • You are often perfectly content playing one terminal per turn. In other instances your key actions may be non-terminal or there are villages with low opportunity cost. You often use gainers or cards that give additional buys if you need them.
  • You only build for a few turns before diving for green. You will see your key cards just as often as other deck types early on. Later you don't even want to see the cards you buy. You may get a sifter if you anticipate to have a very junky deck.
  • You just put up with that. You have enough copies of your key cards to not be hurt too badly by them sometimes colliding or drawing them at an inopportune moment.
  • You put yourself in a VP lead early on. You either sustain that lead until you reached 50 % or you go for a three pile ending, usually on mostly VP piles.

This doesn't describe a slog at all. It doesn't quite describe a rush either.

Slogs don't rely on key cards, slogs rely on consistency of the economy. You can definitely use gainers like Beggar and Jack of all Trades to gain Treasure cards in slogs, but slogs don't generally use gainers for the VP cards. The main way in which slogs overcome the greening obstacle is by adding more economy to balance it out; the slow cycling doesn't help as much as it does for big money because you start greening very early, at which point you're still cycling relatively fast, but it's still a minor factor as well. Villages in slogs is generally a terrible idea — just like in big money, your good cards need to be good cards on their own. Slogs keep building for the entire duration of the game; they have to, because the game might take an incredibly long time to end, and they still have to be perfectly capable of buying more VP by the time it does.

Rushes, on the other hand, do rely on key cards. But they don't keep their cycling slow to mitigate the green and other junk, they simply don't care about the green and other junk as much because they have their key cards and that's good enough.

There are also some other problems with this description. The obvious problem is the part in parentheses. If Rebuild's way of dealing with green was different from all the other rush decks (it isn't), it would be a different strategy. Which is also why I'm calling slog and big money different strategies even though they have 5/7 solutions in common (and you could argue that the part about building is different in degree, but not in kind, making it 6/7 in common).

The other problem is this. I'll cross out all the things that were already covered by a previous solution to a previous obstacle, or will also cover a later solution to a later obstacle.

  • You add a few key cards into your deck that allow you to buy or gain the VP you're going for. These might be gainers, terminals like Baron, or cards like Rebuild.
  • The green and other junk will dilute your deck, but this is often mitigated by cycling slowly to delay the effect (except with Rebuild, where the strong cycling incentivizes you to build slightly longer and buy even more Rebuilds). You may only need one or two of the aforementioned cards per hand to have a decent turn. Otherwise you may buy additional coppers to maintain your economy.
  • You don't really need more than five cards. After building, you use your key cards to buy or gain VP. A bigger handsize would often just lead to collision or unused money.
  • You are often perfectly content playing one terminal per turn. In other instances your key actions may be non-terminal or there are villages with low opportunity cost. You often use gainers or cards that give additional buys if you need them.
  • You only build for a few turns before diving for green. You will see your key cards just as often as other deck types early on. Later you don't even want to see the cards you buy. You may get a sifter if you anticipate to have a very junky deck.
  • You just put up with that. You have enough copies of your key cards to not be hurt too badly by them sometimes colliding or drawing them at an inopportune moment.
  • You put yourself in a VP lead early on. You either sustain that lead until you reached 50 % or you go for a three pile ending, usually on mostly VP piles.

There's quite a bit of stuff there that wasn't crossed out. If you compare it with the big money and Hermit/MS descriptions from the article or faust's engine descriptions from the first reply, you'll see that those would have none. Like I said, for engines, you solve #6 and that solution to #6 automatically solves everything else. For Hermit/MS, the combo automatically solves all obstacles. For big money, two of the obstacles solve each other and then the solution to #1 solves everything else.

Here, I'm able to see a similar connection between all of the things that actually do describe rush strategies, but the parts that I didn't cross out don't seem to follow from anything else in the description, which makes it less of a strategy and more of a "do arbitrary stuff" thing.

I do agree that slogs and money can be somewhat similar. Mostly because they have little control over their deck, their opponents and piles compared to engines. The main difference is really just that money decks rely on economy from treasure cards, while slogs need key action cards to have a decent turn. Embassy decks can be somewhat sloggy, sometimes just skipping gold, while Philstone or Counting House slogs may feel like money.

Both money decks and slogs rely on economy from treasure cards. The difference comes from greening strategy and the extent to which the building part involves being fine with the starting deck. I guess you can use Embassy for slog decks too, but Embassy/BM is definitely not a slog, it's BM. I don't know what you mean by "Philstone or Counting House slogs"; I can't think of any slog where I'd use either card.

Well, turns out that a hand with two Lurkers and three Duchies is not so awful if there is Hunting Grounds on the board and the Duchy pile is empty on turn 9. While it would be bad to have that hand (or that deck) on most boards, it's absolutely great here. I don't think economy should be used as the primary criterion to judge a deck.

It would be a bad hand and a bad deck to have for most strategies, not just most boards.

Economy is not the primary criterion to judge a deck. The obstacles are.

However, like infangthief, I disagree strongly with lumping handsize and buys together as one obstacle. As faust pointed out, different subtypes of engine may deal with the obstacles in different ways. And according to yourself, money and slog are similar in terms of obstacle solutions. Therefore it's hard for me to see these obstacles as the ultimate deck type definition.

Asking me whether or not I have a reason is not the same as disagreeing strongly with my decision. As it turned out, I did have a reason that I already explained and you apparently don't have a reason why you disagree with it, so somehow I'm not entirely convinced that the decision was wrong.

As I noted in response to faust, faust is abstracting differently than I am. The way he does it, he ends up with multiple different types of engines while I don't, but that's fine because it doesn't change the facts, it just changes the level of abstraction. If anything, I would say that if you prefer to think in less abstracted terms, you shouldn't be thinking of all engines as the same thing, and if my method reveals that, then I'd call it a success, not a failure.

According to myself, money and slog are similar but not the same in terms of obstacle solutions.

What do you think is the ultimate deck type definition? Keep in mind that it should be able to encompass future deck types that we haven't figured out yet.
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #21 on: September 15, 2017, 05:17:21 pm »
+1

I don't know what you mean by "Philstone or Counting House slogs"; I can't think of any slog where I'd use either card.

Is the Herbalist / Philosopher's Stone strategy not a slog? Use Herbalists' +Buy to bloat your deck, and top-deck your Potion so you can buy multiple Philosopher's Stones; then once your deck is big enough that you can buy Provinces whenever you draw a Philosopher's Stone, use Herbalist to top-deck your Philosopher's Stones.
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #22 on: September 15, 2017, 09:43:58 pm »
0

I don't know what you mean by "Philstone or Counting House slogs"; I can't think of any slog where I'd use either card.

Is the Herbalist / Philosopher's Stone strategy not a slog? Use Herbalists' +Buy to bloat your deck, and top-deck your Potion so you can buy multiple Philosopher's Stones; then once your deck is big enough that you can buy Provinces whenever you draw a Philosopher's Stone, use Herbalist to top-deck your Philosopher's Stones.

I think you just answered your own question. There's no other deck that does that, therefore it's a unique strategy.
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #23 on: September 17, 2017, 04:32:57 pm »
+2

Maybe I'm oversimplifying/thinking of this incorrectly, but I tend to think of the traditional deck types as being on a 2d spectrum, similar to these now common charts people use to discuss political views.

One can have different combinations of the 4 (ignoring the ever-vague "combo") deck types, but you wouldn't really say that your deck is both a Rush and a Slog, nor would you say you have a Big Money and Engine deck. You might say that your deck is inbetween a Rush and a Slog, but it seems reasonable that those two ideas are inversely related, the same way BM and Engine are. Increasing how much your deck is a Rush decreases how much it's a Slog.

So, my Cache/Gardens strategy is a Big Money Slog, whereas maybe a more traditional Gardens game is pretty evenly BM/Engine, but is still a Slog. Going for just straight Chapel and Golds would be a BM Rush, whereas something like a Bridge Megaturn deck might be a Rush Engine. A "Golden Deck", to me, is a deck which is typically on the extreme end of the Engine and Rush quadrant. It aims to leverage actions for total control over luck/guarentee VPs (signs of an Engine), while aiming to be faster than many Megaturn decks which may take a fair amount of set-up (signs that it's a Rush).

I think the difference between a Rush/Slog is more obvious. Alt VP tends to move things in the Slog direction, "traditional", deck-thinning trashing moves it in the Rush direction, etc. But debate seems more likely to stem from the exact meanings of BM and Engine. For me, it's generally a matter of how many moving pieces we're talking about. If I just pick up some Governors and fists full of cash- Big Money. Or, as mentioned before, if I'm just loading up on Caches and Gardens- Big Money. If I get more sophisticated and throw in some gainers or sifters, now my Gardens strategy has become a bit more Enginey. So I think of Big Money as less moving parts and Engines as more. If you're a fan of Super Smash Bros slang, the more "wombo combo" your strategy becomes, the more we're talking Engine and less we're talking Big Money. At least in my mind.

To me, "Combo" is kinda just a nebulous term to describe the 4 quadrants, when really it may be more valuable to specify things like "an Engine which is about 50/50 on the Rush/Slog scale" or "a heavy Slog that starts out Big Money to afford the parts, and then becomes a late-game Engine". But again, this could just be a fundamental misunderstanding on my part. I'm interested to know what others think.



I agree with the sentiment others have shared that there's a lot of value in the 7 questions the article offers up that should probably be addressed when crafting a plan. To avoid confusion, I might simplify the "You only have 5 cards and 1 Buy" thing into "You only have 1 Buy". I don't necessarily care how many cards I have so much as I care about my ability to pay for things (which may get supplemented by card draw, actions which give coins, high value treasures, gainers, coin tokens, etc.), and I feel like you have that covered elsewhere in your 7 questions.

I think a lot of players understand early on that drawing more cards is nice. Who doesn't love a Hunting Grounds or Smithy? But I've taught a lot of new players who undervalue +Buy. So I think it pays to call it out as its own question and force players to consider whether they're going to need extra buys to make their plan work well.
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Re: The Infinite Number of Fundamental Deck Types
« Reply #24 on: September 17, 2017, 05:25:02 pm »
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One can have different combinations of the 4 (ignoring the ever-vague "combo") deck types, but you wouldn't really say that your deck is both a Rush and a Slog, nor would you say you have a Big Money and Engine deck. You might say that your deck is inbetween a Rush and a Slog, but it seems reasonable that those two ideas are inversely related, the same way BM and Engine are. Increasing how much your deck is a Rush decreases how much it's a Slog.

So, my Cache/Gardens strategy is a Big Money Slog, whereas maybe a more traditional Gardens game is pretty evenly BM/Engine, but is still a Slog. Going for just straight Chapel and Golds would be a BM Rush, whereas something like a Bridge Megaturn deck might be a Rush Engine. A "Golden Deck", to me, is a deck which is typically on the extreme end of the Engine and Rush quadrant. It aims to leverage actions for total control over luck/guarentee VPs (signs of an Engine), while aiming to be faster than many Megaturn decks which may take a fair amount of set-up (signs that it's a Rush).

I think the difference between a Rush/Slog is more obvious. Alt VP tends to move things in the Slog direction, "traditional", deck-thinning trashing moves it in the Rush direction, etc. But debate seems more likely to stem from the exact meanings of BM and Engine. For me, it's generally a matter of how many moving pieces we're talking about. If I just pick up some Governors and fists full of cash- Big Money. Or, as mentioned before, if I'm just loading up on Caches and Gardens- Big Money. If I get more sophisticated and throw in some gainers or sifters, now my Gardens strategy has become a bit more Enginey. So I think of Big Money as less moving parts and Engines as more. If you're a fan of Super Smash Bros slang, the more "wombo combo" your strategy becomes, the more we're talking Engine and less we're talking Big Money. At least in my mind.

To me, "Combo" is kinda just a nebulous term to describe the 4 quadrants, when really it may be more valuable to specify things like "an Engine which is about 50/50 on the Rush/Slog scale" or "a heavy Slog that starts out Big Money to afford the parts, and then becomes a late-game Engine". But again, this could just be a fundamental misunderstanding on my part. I'm interested to know what others think.

Mainly, the problem with this is that the number of "moving pieces" doesn't really make any difference from a strategic perspective, it's just a superficial attribute, and the same is true for whether you're using alt-VP or basic Victory cards. In other words, have you ever lost a game and concluded that you could have won that game if only your strategy had had some more moving pieces?

I agree with the sentiment others have shared that there's a lot of value in the 7 questions the article offers up that should probably be addressed when crafting a plan. To avoid confusion, I might simplify the "You only have 5 cards and 1 Buy" thing into "You only have 1 Buy". I don't necessarily care how many cards I have so much as I care about my ability to pay for things (which may get supplemented by card draw, actions which give coins, high value treasures, gainers, coin tokens, etc.), and I feel like you have that covered elsewhere in your 7 questions.

I think a lot of players understand early on that drawing more cards is nice. Who doesn't love a Hunting Grounds or Smithy? But I've taught a lot of new players who undervalue +Buy. So I think it pays to call it out as its own question and force players to consider whether they're going to need extra buys to make their plan work well.

This isn't about the strength of cards or the strength of effects. If I wanted to write that article, it'd just say "You should open trashing/trashing 100% of the time". This is about strategies, so the part about 5 cards is necessary because different strategies have different solutions to it.

If anything, I'm not sure that the 1 Buy part is necessary. I have been keeping it there because the worst case scenario is that it's doing nothing, but so far I haven't been able to think of a strategy where the solution to buys can't just be generalized as "you match your buying power with the number of buys you have available to be able to buy the things you need". If every strategy has the same solution, then the obstacle is pretty useless for differentiating between strategies.
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