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JThorne

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Payload first
« on: November 21, 2017, 01:01:26 pm »
+9

In continuing to improve my engine-building skills, I have a question to pose to the community: How often do you buy payload first, or at least, as early as you can afford it?

I ask because players appreciate the value of strong trashing, drawing deck, and using gainers to acquire engine pieces. Where I've often found myself, however, is focusing on these elements too narrowly and waiting too long to get payload. We all know about the Village Idiot, but there are times when I feel like a Smithy idiot. Drawing a bunch of junk feels like spinning my wheels, and I will sometimes struggle to get an engine up to speed. Drawing three cards and having $4 to spend is a wake-up call.

At some point, I started asking myself things like "How am I going to hit $5 on the second shuffle" and the answer is often "buy at least one payload card before turning towards actions/draw cards."

In particular, terminal payload cards that give any of coin/buy/attack/gain. Militia and Swindler can be good openers, for example. Weak cards like Messenger less so, but if I know I want at least one Messenger for the +buy, I'm starting to feel like buying it early and using it to spike $5 often makes more sense than prioritizing draw and buying it later only when I'm drawing deck. A card like Bridge, even if your plan is to load up on extra actions and play as many as you can get, is a card you want just one of early in the building process for the economy, then turn to actions/draw, then turn back to all the Bridges you can eat.

Payload attacks, likewise, seem better to get as early as possible, particularly junkers. I'll try to at least buy one early, then switch to prioritizing buying enough draw to play it as many times as possible, only buying multiples if there is a benefit to playing multiples in a single turn.

The point is, I've been shifting my build order from trashing/draw/payload to trashing/payload/draw and finding that's better most of the time. (Did I say "trashing" yet? Trashing, trashing, trashing. I'll open double Lookout or double Ambassador or double Forager without blinking. I need no convincing on that front. I even get misty-eyed driving by the Goodwill with their "Donate" sign.) And yeah, sometimes the payload is treasure, but I don't have to like it. I'll hold my nose and open Chapel/Silver if I have to.

And I feel like there's another reason to buy a payload card as early as possible, and it's kind of the dirty secret of Dominion strategy: Your plan might not work. I know we all love the deck-drawing, pile-controlling, meat-grinding, rock-crushing engines that most of us are capable of. But sometimes, it's just not fast enough, or the opponents' attacks are more crippling than we expected, or something about the game state changes in such a way that it's clear that the engine just isn't going to explode; payload cards are going to be more likely to get you to an alternate win condition than superfluous action/draw cards that aren't able to do their one job. You may say "but by then you've already lost," but that's not always true in messy games and can depend on what the opponent buys and in what quantity. Or just plain luck.

Special mention goes to multi-purpose cards like Steward and Count who can trash early and pivot to providing economy later, and to cards that fill the payload/draw role all at once like Torturer and Wild Hunt, so there are some fuzzy boundaries.

It all comes down to balancing draw with something worth drawing.

Comments?
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Seprix

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2017, 03:50:17 pm »
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There comes a point where you're drawing most of your deck. That's probably a good time to get some payload. There's such a thing as overtrashing sometimes. That's also a good time to not trash and pick up helpful cards instead.

Another thing to add is spiking. Do you want to get to that Forge early? Then yeah, you're getting payload first so you can trash down later. Donate games can work much in the same way, but it comes down to guaranteeing the thinning and consistency increasing later on.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2017, 03:56:25 pm by Seprix »
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Chris is me

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2017, 04:12:06 pm »
+2

The rule of thumb is you buy some payload first when it slows down your opponent more than buying engine components speeds you up. So Cultist is the obvious example, but sometimes you’ll want an early Militia, Witch, etc.
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trivialknot

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2017, 04:22:23 pm »
+1

I'm genuinely confused about the supposed wisdom that you add payload to an engine last, or only after you're drawing your deck.  I mean, it's universally recognized that opening Silver is often correct.  Does Silver not count as payload?
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Chris is me

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2017, 04:29:28 pm »
+3

I'm genuinely confused about the supposed wisdom that you add payload to an engine last, or only after you're drawing your deck.  I mean, it's universally recognized that opening Silver is often correct.  Does Silver not count as payload?

Some distinguish payload and economy, even though cards often play both roles. Payload might be “Militia Attack and buy two Provinces”, while economy can be anything that makes you get more valuable cards...
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avorian

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2017, 04:40:11 pm »
+1

You seem to have this rigid distinction in your mind between building the draw/actions piece of an engine and then adding payload. Really this seems like a strange way to view the process, and one that is actively harmful.  The whole point of engines is that they feed their own power back into the ability to build them. IF you draw more you can trash faster, play more cards to gain more cards, play more buy cards, play cost reduction cards. All of these effects help build a bigger draw engine. People sometimes talk about the exponential growth of engine. If you add that messenger after you're already drawing deck, you're going to lose to the person who managed to use the buy from it to speed up their own deck drawing engine.
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trivialknot

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2017, 05:16:35 pm »
0

I'm genuinely confused about the supposed wisdom that you add payload to an engine last, or only after you're drawing your deck.  I mean, it's universally recognized that opening Silver is often correct.  Does Silver not count as payload?

Some distinguish payload and economy, even though cards often play both roles. Payload might be “Militia Attack and buy two Provinces”, while economy can be anything that makes you get more valuable cards...
That makes a lot of sense.  Thank you for that comment.  My only complaint is that I do not recall anyone explicitly discussing this distinction before.

I checked WW's old article on engines, and it does not make the distinction.  It does, however, say:
Quote
You often will want to pick up one attack early on to slow your opponent down, and at some point you may start to get hampered in your ability to buy more components because you can’t generate enough buying power – this should be your cue to get more payload;

BeyondAwesome's more recent article on engines distinguishes between payload and enablers, with "enablers" referring primarily to gainers, but also sifting and trashing.  It says that some enablers can also function as payload, such as Market.  I'm guessing that an early silver falls in the enabler category, although that's never stated.

In Adam's recent article about openings, he explicitly states that payload should be prioritized after drawing, gaining, junking, and thinning.  But the examples include opening silver in order to get the more expensive high-priority cards.

It seems like when people are writing these guides to engines, they have something like an economy/payload distinction in mind.  But nobody seems to talk about it explicitly, so it's kind of an elephant in the room.
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LastFootnote

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2017, 05:17:06 pm »
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If you add that messenger after you're already drawing deck, you're going to lose to the person who managed to use the buy from it to speed up their own deck drawing engine.

And the deck cycling, which is only really significant during the building portion of the engine.
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JThorne

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2017, 05:28:25 pm »
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To clarify: Treasure is payload. Even that Silver you open with for early economy, because even if you trash it later, it's usually pretty late when you do.

Conventional wisdom is that treasure, on its own, isn't a particularly good payload for an engine, and trying to build up to multiple Province buys in the absence of some kind of attack or alt+vp or token generator will usually lose to BM.

However, there are so many alt treasures now and so many treasure enablers they're frequently good engine components. I mean, if Fortune doesn't say "make a draw engine" I'm not sure which treasure does. Ok, HoP. Anyway.

I'm just saying that the voice in my head that used to look at non-drawing terminal X and say "draw deck first, buy X later" has become a voice that says "Hang on...get one copy of X now, because it will accelerate the build and/or slow your opponent. Don't wait to draw deck."

Looking at the reductionist case: The turn 3-4 Donate that goes down to two or three cards. Those are generally payload cards because you don't need draw, and you exponentially add draw and economy from there.
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DG

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2017, 05:47:22 pm »
+3

Sequencing buys has always been a difficult Dominion problem even when you know what cards you want.

I wouldn't describe your initial income as payload. I don't think that's helpful. I'd suggest trying to visualize the hand composition that will buy you the key cards (as well as whatever else you want your deck to do). If it's not realistically happening with your current strategy then change it, perhaps by adding stepping stones like silver.
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dedicateddan

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2017, 05:57:10 pm »
+2

It's easy to underestimate how good trashing a few cards early on is. Translated to coins, I'd estimate a single trash is worth around 4. So, if there's trashing, opening with it is usually a good idea.

Keep in mind the price points you need to hit. If there's Hunting Party, you'll want an early $5 hand. King's Court, you'll need to find a way to spike 7.

In general, I recommend erring on the side of trashing a little too much over trashing too little, particularly if mid-turn gaining is on the board.
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GendoIkari

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2017, 06:02:48 pm »
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A lot of this will depend on how fast you can get payload. If your only source of gains is and buys, then you'll have to start sooner, because it will be several turns until you can afford to buy a lot. But if the Kingdom has any of the now many Gold-gainers, you can get several Gold per turn quickly, so you can wait longer.
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Awaclus

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #12 on: November 21, 2017, 06:20:25 pm »
+3

I sort of ended up writing this post as a mini-article rather than a response to people in this thread in particular, so I'm not trying to be condescending by explaining obvious things, it just felt like a good idea to write it that way for some reason.


Payload is what you are building towards, economy is what lets you reach the price points to buy the things to get there. To use an RTS analogy, you can sort of think of economy as the equivalent of resource production and payload as the equivalent of building the army. The faster you can get good economy going, the faster you can start to have your explosive turns, but if you overbuild the economy, that's just a waste of time.

What's noteworthy is that many engine components themselves are economy. If I buy a Gear, it helps me hit $5, so that's economy. If I buy a Plan t1 to trash an Estate t2, that's also economy. But buying a Gear or trashing an Estate when I'm already drawing my deck doesn't increase the payload of my deck in any way, so it makes sense to get those in the very early game.

On the other hand, there are payload cards that don't help with economy very much. Groundskeeper is outstanding payload because it lets you get a ton of points when you are drawing your deck and playing a bunch of Groundskeepers every turn, but it doesn't do anything for your economy because it doesn't increase how many coins you have in your hand. Graverobber works as payload because you can play two of them to gain a Province at the stage where you're already greening, but it's very disappointing for economy. So it doesn't make sense to get them early.

But this is actually sort of true for many of the payload cards like Bridge, Horn of Plenty, Fortune, even just Gold, etc. They do help your economy, but if you only expect to have 5 cards in hand a lot of the time, the economical benefit you get from them is not as good as you'd expect for the price, and/or you need to have good economy before you can even afford them at all (so getting them to further increase your economy is the aforementioned overbuilding of economy, i.e. a waste of time). That's why you generally build your engine first, and then you add the payload.

There are also exceptions. Some cards, like Militia and Monument, that are good for payload are also roughly on-par with other cards you could be getting for economy. Some payload cards like Sea Hag (and Militia also falls into this category as well) have an effect that you specifically want to have as early as possible. And for some payload cards like Highway, Bridge Troll and Grand Market, you will eventually want a ton of copies of that card in your deck, so you might have to start buying them early before your opponent wins the split (combined with the fact that these cards are easy to have in your deck without causing too much terminal collision, and that they also help out with economy a little bit).
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crj

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #13 on: November 21, 2017, 07:48:39 pm »
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I see another consideration I've not noticed anyone mentioning: in many Kingdoms you want to prioritise buying the components that are going to run out.
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Re: Payload first
« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2017, 08:24:05 pm »
+1

I see another consideration I've not noticed anyone mentioning: in many Kingdoms you want to prioritise buying the components that are going to run out.

I just did in the post directly above yours.
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popsofctown

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2017, 08:41:35 pm »
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I don't know how it fits into the spectrum of "payload versus engine", but main in 1 Buy games with gainers I love me my early vineyards potion.
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Re: Payload first
« Reply #16 on: November 22, 2017, 12:15:39 am »
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I feel like I just read most of this without understanding what is meant by the term "payload"...
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Re: Payload first
« Reply #17 on: November 22, 2017, 10:50:49 am »
+1

It all comes down to balancing draw with something worth drawing.
This. If it were as simple as engine pieces first, once you draw your deck add payload Dominion would be a solved game. You always gotta balance all kinds of considerations and while trashing, junking and drawing are extremely important in most Kingdoms it is rarely simple to tell what the best path is.
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ConMan

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Re: Payload first
« Reply #18 on: November 22, 2017, 05:48:56 pm »
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I feel like I just read most of this without understanding what is meant by the term "payload"...
I've always assumed it's "The payoff bit of your engine that is the whole point of building it". So it's the big attack, it's the Monuments, it's the Bridges that will let you buy all the Provinces.

I also assumed that you generally want to have a little bit of payload while you're building your engine because it can (a) help you get more engine pieces, or (b) attack your opponent to give you the time to finish building, or (c) require being in your deck for a while before it pays off (like Travelers).
« Last Edit: November 22, 2017, 05:50:47 pm by ConMan »
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