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Author Topic: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion  (Read 1770 times)

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4est

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Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« on: September 22, 2017, 11:15:00 am »
+22

Here's my article on Secret Passage, another card without much written on it yet.  My audience is still primarily newer players, though this article also occasionally references cards from other expansions, so it can be useful for veterans as well.  I would appreciate any feedback and edits! 




Secret Passage is a nifty, yet subtle card.  At first glance, it can seem mediocre, but then you start realizing all the creative “tricks” you can do with it—“Oh, Secret Passage would be nice with ________!”  It’s by no means a power card and is often a bit weak in isolation, but Secret Passage is unique in that the “cute” synergies are often what make it worth getting. 


Secret Passage is not Laboratory

First, things first: despite the “+2 Cards, +1 Action” smiling innocently at you, Secret Passage is NOT Laboratory.  It does NOT increase your handsize. 

It seems obvious, but sometimes players forget this simple point and overbuy Secret Passage, without realizing that a stack of them doesn’t really do much for you.  Since you always have to put a card back into your deck, you’re just going to have to draw through that card again later.  Secret Passage alone will never draw your deck, and too many of them can leave you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.


Secret Passage as a Sifter

The primary purpose of sifters in general is to cycle through your deck, to get to the cards you want more quickly.  However, unlike most sifters which discard cards you don’t want, Secret Passage puts them back in your deck, which is usually worse with Estates or Coppers that you’d rather not have to draw again (for this reason, it’s usually not a great card to open with).  The best case scenario here is to use Secret Passage to put junk at the bottom of your deck where it will likely miss the shuffle.  With all this in mind, Secret Passage is actually very bad at cycling through your deck, and gets worse when there’s little or no trashing, or if you’re getting junked.  In these cases, more traditional sifters such as Cellar or Warehouse are superior.

The other main use for sifters in general is to try and connect certain cards together.  Some examples might include using Warehouse to connect: a Smithy with a Village, Tournament with a Province, 2 Treasure Maps, or 2 Lurkers.  While Secret Passage’s reach of 2 cards is smaller than other sifters, it has the unique ability to help facilitate connections on later hands (e.g. putting the single Lurker back in your deck and hope to draw two together next turn).  In this respect, Secret Passage can function sort of like Courtyard or Haven, smoothing out your turns by stashing away a colliding terminal for use next turn, or saving an extra Gold for later if you can already hit $8 this turn. 

Even better, Secret Passage is excellent for setting up your next turn.  In many engines, the most common time that your deck can stall is at the very beginning of your turn (e.g. you draw a hand with three Smithies and no Village).  With Secret Passage, you can drop extra Villages and/or draw cards back onto your deck to guarantee that you can kick off your next turn.  Especially, in deck-drawing engines, Secret Passage can provide powerful deck control and minimize stall turns. 


Cute Little Tricks

While Secret Passage is good for bottom-decking junk or smoothing/setting up turns, where it really shines is in all the little synergies its unique sifting ability enables.  Wishing Well is the most well-known: if you play Secret Passage first and put a card below the top card of your deck, you’ll know exactly what to wish for with Wishing Well.  Similarly, Secret Passage works nicely with all sorts of cards that care about where certain cards are in your deck.  Here are just a handful of them:

  • Wish well with Wishing Well and Mystic
  • Set up an action to play with Vassal or Herald
  • Place junk for Sentry or Lookout to trash (or Native Village to stash away)
  • Put Estates back to sift past with Farming Village, Ironmonger, or Sage
  • Toss a Copper or Estate a few cards down to pick up again with Apothecary or Patrol
  • Put Victory cards or $5-cost cards below the top of your deck to activate Vagrant or Patrician
  • Defend against your opponent’s Swindler by putting an Estate sixth from the top
  • Increase the chances of getting VP from Chariot Race by topdecking an expensive card

This is not an exhaustive list—players are constantly discovering new ways to use Secret Passage to interact beneficially with other cards. 

It’s important to note that these synergies, while neat, will not usually win you games on their own—however, when incorporated into a good strategy, they can be a great asset.  Using Secret Passage to draw an extra card with Wishing Well a few times isn’t a victory by itself, though it can certainly help get you there.  With all of the above tricks, Secret Passage grants the other card a boost which can give you a powerful edge in close games.  In some cases (e.g. pseudotrashing with Native Village on a board with no trashing), using these interactions might even allow for decks that would normally never be reliable without it.  Secret Passage is at its best when it can maximize other cards by eliminating randomness, put things exactly where you need them to be, or turn sometimes-Laboratories into always-Laboratories.

All this to say: don’t take this section to mean that Secret Passage isn’t worth going for if there’s not a “cute trick” available—to the contrary, it’s still a fine utility card that can fit nicely in most engines for its sifting and smoothing abilities discusses earlier, as well as its use for setting up your next turn.  And if ever you play it and aren’t sure what to do, putting your worst card on the bottom of your deck is usually a safe bet. 


Secret Passage and Creativity in Dominion

This is true of many cards, but Secret Passage especially is a card that often rewards creativity.  You can play it mindlessly, always just dumping a bad card on the bottom, but it usually gives you a little more if you can notice ways to make the ability work with other cards or techniques.  When playing with Secret Passage, always to scan the board for any unique interactions, and don’t be afraid to try something new (just be aware that some “creative” interactions are more helpful than others).

Just as Secret Passage emphasizes creativity, I’ll end with this: Dominion is an incredibly creative game, and I don’t just mean in its design.  With every single kingdom comes a new set of cards and potential decks, complete with unique synergies, obstacles, interactions, and traps.  By its very nature, Dominion requires its players to be creative as they construct a deck that has likely never been built before and will probably never be built again.  Every game is a new puzzle, and Dominion is all about figuring out what will work together here, and what won’t—and then trying it and making adjustments as you go.  No amount of card articles, power rankings, or strategy discussion will ever prepare you perfectly for your next game—at the end of the day, it’s up to you to look over the new kingdom and start creating.

**Revised: 9/23/2017
« Last Edit: September 28, 2017, 09:31:59 am by 4est »
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aku_chi

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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2017, 11:30:06 am »
+3

Nice article!  I like the structure.  Two points of feedback:

  • Spell out "Laboratory" throughout the "Not Lab" section.
  • One of the other basic Secret Passage synergies (similar to Courtyard or Haven) is to seed your next turn with an extra draw card so you can reliably kick off.  This is especially important with big drawers like Scrying Pool, City Quarter, Storyteller, and Apprentice.
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2017, 11:55:37 am »
+2

some players forget this simple point and overbuy Secret Passage, thinking, Its cheap and its still +2 Cards, +1 Action, right?

Does this really happen? I'm sure people overbuy it, but do people play it and think their handsize is increasing?
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2017, 12:13:25 pm »
+3

Nice article.

Although the concept of skipping shuffles is well-known to advanced players, it's something that new players often miss or fail to understand.  I also don't have a good sense for how good the shuffle-skipping effect really is.  I suspect that if that's all you're using Secret Passage for, it's slightly worse than Caravan.
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2017, 12:14:57 pm »
+1

I've not had much opportunity to play using Secret Passage myself yet, but...

With super-critical collisions like Tournament-Province or 2*Treasure-Map, does it make sense to send one of the components to the bottom of your deck in the hope you can later also send its counterpart down there? Or is that too fiddly?
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4est

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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2017, 12:19:24 pm »
0

some players forget this simple point and overbuy Secret Passage, thinking, Its cheap and its still +2 Cards, +1 Action, right?

Does this really happen? I'm sure people overbuy it, but do people play it and think their handsize is increasing?

Probably not.  The point here is mainly to remind players that by themselves, a bunch of Secret Passages don't really do much and to not overbuy it.  I'll plan to rephrase this part, good catch. 
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Chris is me

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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2017, 01:11:32 pm »
+3

I actually think you understate the power of cute tricks quite a bit. You say they won't win you games on their own, but... they sorta will? Like, making WW always hit is huge. Making Sentry trash more reliably is huge. Getting more effective draw from Farming Village etc is big. These are important synergies that make Secret Passage excellent.

Also I didn't see you mention a good "default" for Secret Passage - if you don't know what to do once you play it, put your worst card on the bottom of your deck.
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2017, 02:02:49 pm »
+2

I actually think you understate the power of cute tricks quite a bit. You say they won't win you games on their own, but... they sorta will? Like, making WW always hit is huge. Making Sentry trash more reliably is huge. Getting more effective draw from Farming Village etc is big. These are important synergies that make Secret Passage excellent.

While he may understate the power of those tricks, you overstate them. Most of them come down to making Secret Passage into a $4 Lab. For example: the WW + SP combination is basically $3 + $4 for a Lab. Meanwhile at the same price point, Village + Smithy is two Labs. Granted it's easier to make the WW + SP connect.

However I do think the SP + Sentry interaction is huge. That's basically a Lab plus a trashing effect.
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DG

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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2017, 03:00:42 pm »
0

Secret passage can also be about taking a card that doesn't fit your hand and putting it back into your deck. For example, if you want to trash your hand with a count you can put your best card back onto the deck and then trash with count. More generally, if you are going to be making a lot of decisions in your card play then a secret chamber can often give more options and better options.

It might also be worth mentioning that you can use secret passage to prepare the engine cards you need to initiate the following turn. For example, if you are using crossroads and libraries to create an engine with no other villages, rather than filling your deck with those cards you could put a spare library and crossroads near the top of your deck with the secret passage to be in the next starting hand.
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2017, 03:07:07 pm »
+2

I actually think you understate the power of cute tricks quite a bit. You say they won't win you games on their own, but... they sorta will? Like, making WW always hit is huge. Making Sentry trash more reliably is huge. Getting more effective draw from Farming Village etc is big. These are important synergies that make Secret Passage excellent.

While he may understate the power of those tricks, you overstate them. Most of them come down to making Secret Passage into a $4 Lab. For example: the WW + SP combination is basically $3 + $4 for a Lab. Meanwhile at the same price point, Village + Smithy is two Labs. Granted it's easier to make the WW + SP connect.

More importantly, Wishing Well and Secret Passage are cards that you buy when you can't afford the $5 engine pieces, and they are also decent cards on their own so it's fine if they don't connect. The fact that they're suddenly a Lab when you draw them together is a pretty big deal when it's a close game.
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2017, 04:37:33 pm »
+18

My favorite Secret Passage trick - which you see a bunch when you play just a few sets at a time - is defending against Swindler. You play Secret Passage, and have no more card-drawing for the turn. You put Estate 6th from the top. You finish your turn and draw your new hand of 5 cards. Now if they Swindler you, they hit the Estate.
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2017, 05:31:50 pm »
+5

After a bit of reflection, I think that it's worth pointing out that the cute tricks can occasionally be a substantial part of deck construction. A deck made with a cute trick might be far above anything possible without it. Putting selected cards onto the top of the deck with a secret passage, then putting those cards onto the native village mat, might enable a deck construction that would be completely unreliable otherwise.

Knowing cute tricks doesn't win you games. Applying cute tricks as deck construction can certainly win games.
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Chappy7

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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2017, 06:00:01 pm »
0

I love SP with Vagrant.  It does a very similar thing to Wishing well.   Sp turns it into a lab as long as you have a vicotry, curse, ruins, or shelter in hand or as one of the top two cards of your deck.  It's usually pretty easy to pick up a vagrant or 4 throughout the game on those turns with and extra buy and $2-$3.
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4est

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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2017, 09:44:35 am »
+3

Thanks everyone for the ideas and suggestions!  Ive updated the OP with some key revisions and additions.  I put some more emphasis on the power of Secret Passage tricks, and Ive added Vagrant, Patrician, and Swindler-defense to the list.  Theres also a new paragraph that talks about using Secret Passage to set up your next turn.
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2017, 01:14:45 pm »
+1

I think like with a lot of the $3 or $4 cards this pairs well with (WW, Herald, etc.) it's even better when you can easily gain them, like with Workshop and friends. Otherwise, you still need economy.
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #15 on: September 23, 2017, 04:13:42 pm »
+1

Secret Passage + Sentry = bae
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #16 on: September 27, 2017, 03:49:55 pm »
0

4est with the exception of a couple of minor typos, I think this is another excellent article from you. I would consider adding the Swindler defense trick Donald X. brought up, especially considering both cards are from the same expansion.
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #17 on: September 27, 2017, 07:00:06 pm »
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4est with the exception of a couple of minor typos, I think this is another excellent article from you. I would consider adding the Swindler defense trick Donald X. brought up, especially considering both cards are from the same expansion.

It is in the article already.
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   Quote from: sudgy on June 31, 2011, 11:47:46 pm

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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #18 on: September 27, 2017, 07:01:08 pm »
+1

some players forget this simple point and overbuy Secret Passage, thinking, Its cheap and its still +2 Cards, +1 Action, right?

Does this really happen? I'm sure people overbuy it, but do people play it and think their handsize is increasing?

I've seen people use normal sifters and think their handsize is staying the same if that helps.
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   Quote from: sudgy on June 31, 2011, 11:47:46 pm

Beyond Awesome

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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #19 on: September 27, 2017, 09:12:44 pm »
0

4est with the exception of a couple of minor typos, I think this is another excellent article from you. I would consider adding the Swindler defense trick Donald X. brought up, especially considering both cards are from the same expansion.

It is in the article already.

Ahh, I missed it.
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #20 on: September 28, 2017, 04:45:27 am »
+2

Nice article.
I like the way you leave it open-ended with the creativity side; some articles give the impression that the experts know all there is to know and all the newbie can do is just read and memorise what they've found out. But in this one we're encouraged to go and explore further.
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #21 on: September 28, 2017, 02:35:05 pm »
+1

some players forget this simple point and overbuy Secret Passage, thinking, Its cheap and its still +2 Cards, +1 Action, right?

Does this really happen? I'm sure people overbuy it, but do people play it and think their handsize is increasing?

Only once...
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #22 on: September 28, 2017, 04:05:11 pm »
0

I am surprised that no one mentioned (as far as I read) that for the save-for-the-next-turn usage it is significantly worse than scheme, which actually lets you play the card. Also pretty obvious, secret passage does not work in this way when you can draw your deck.

Also, the save-to-skip-reshuffle is rather interesting to think about. If you always do that, in average it is equivalent to permanently trash 1-(since it can miss the shuffle itself, and you can happen not to have a bad card in hand when playing it) bad card from your deck. How good is that? Probably not so good in comparison, as many 3 cost cards can trash one card per shuffle.

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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #23 on: October 17, 2017, 01:10:37 am »
+2

Congrats to 4est. This article was chosen for this week's main blog article. You can find it by clicking here. https://dominionstrategy.com/
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Re: Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« Reply #24 on: October 17, 2017, 03:08:27 pm »
0

I've not had much opportunity to play using Secret Passage myself yet, but...

With super-critical collisions like Tournament-Province or 2*Treasure-Map, does it make sense to send one of the components to the bottom of your deck in the hope you can later also send its counterpart down there? Or is that too fiddly?

This makes me smile:
1) stack tournament one card above a previously stashed province
2) unfortunately draw the tournament with the province as the next card
3) play the tournament without a province
4) get to draw a card because no one else reveals, and now you have the province, but too late XD

---

I would have missed this article if not for it getting front page, so yay for the blog!
« Last Edit: October 17, 2017, 03:24:03 pm by weesh »
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