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Screwyioux

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Contraband
« on: June 15, 2018, 09:43:00 am »
+3

Hey guys, I'm writing an article on Contraband for the strategy blog and I thought it would be good to get a few more eyes on it before it's ready to publish, so let me know what you think!

I'm trying to trim this to 500 words if I can (self-imposed limit because I don't want it to be too long) so I purposely left out things I consider edge cases, but I definitely want suggestions if they come to mind!

Goal: Help new players understand why Contraband is usually a bad idea and experienced players recognize situations where it isnít.

Contraband-A-Ban-Ban

Often ignored, Contraband is considered by many a weak card. A lot of the time it is, but thatís to the extent that Dominion has strong and weak cards.
What Dominion really has are commonly applicable and rarely applicable cards, and the best players look out for all possible advantages, all the time, on every board.

Contraband is guilty until proven innocent in terms of utility-- itís unwise to start your game plan by dreaming up uses for Contraband. Rather, one should identify their deckbuilding and endgame goals, then decide whether or not Contraband is an enabler.

Limitations- Why donít you buy Contraband more often?

Itís rare for an opponent not to have some idea of what your goals are based on what your deck is doing, and by extension what the best card for your deck would be.This applies to every phase of the game (this is especially true for money-focused decks that donít interact with much of the Kingdom).
Counting on your opponent making a mistake is a bad strategy-- And relying on Contraband for payload is usually just that.
Playing more than one compounds the problem, making the card inherently unreliable, as you rarely want more than one.
At its worst in the in the endgame, as your opponent almost always knows which green card you need to buy.


A $5-cost card that doesnít help you get control of your deck has the onus to deliver significant payload. Contraband does, but with the restriction that youíre required to do the second-best thing with your turn. If thereís one clear best thing, the opportunity cost is that thing (because a $5 buy probably could have advanced you toward it somehow).

For example, when you and your opponent are fighting over the last Avanto, Contraband probably isnít welcome in your hand.
Whereas youíre usually much more content having to buy Blessed Village instead of Workerís Village, or two Markets instead of a Grand Market.

Strengths and how to capitalize on them:

Itís cheaper than Gold, with the added benefit of plus buy. Non-terminal plus buy and significant non-terminal payload are kind of rare-- Contraband is both. making it an efficient means of picking up two or more cards per turn if you donít particularly mind which ones they are.

-Situations to capitalize on these strengths
-Boards with many useful supply piles (no clear best choice, youíre just shoving awesome stuff into your deck).
-A way to profitably trash the Contraband once youíre done building.
-Events you want to buy

Itís also worth noting the advantage you have by giving your opponent as little information about your hand as possible. This means you normally play it as your first treasure, and that itís weaker when you need to reveal cards from your hand mid-turn, like with Menagerie or Legionary.

Conclusion:
Contraband is terrible in big money decks and terrible on boards with a few piles key to a clearly dominant strategy. However, on boards with multiple build-routes/useful components, itís an extremely efficient means of shoving them into your deck en masse.

The key thing to remember is that Contraband helps you build your deck, it does NOT help you win the game with your deck,
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Chris is me

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2018, 09:59:38 am »
+9

The main thing I would add emphasis on is the +Buy - this is by far the most important aspect of Contraband and really the only reason you would ever buy it over Gold or even Silver. Itís not some side-benefit - itís the reason to get the card. If it were just a cheaper Gold to buy events with, you would never buy it.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2018, 10:00:47 am by Chris is me »
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ipofanes

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2018, 10:07:25 am »
0

Indeed, +buy is not emphasized enough.

Colony games offer more different targets but once the opponent sees you are trying to end on Provinces she can block them. Also, having to buy Platinum in lieu of Colony is only really bad at the very end of the game. Generally, Colony games merit a second look, which means that Conrtaband was correctly placed into its expansion. Draw your deck engines might be a reason to skip Contraband as its detrimental effect will hit every turn.

Yesterday I played a Colony game where other sources of income were Temple and Emporiums, with no other source of +Buy. Didn't regret the two Contrabands I bought.
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Awaclus

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2018, 10:28:14 am »
0

Having multiple build routes isn't really good enough. Committing hard to a strategy is usually super stronger than keeping your options open because of how much more efficiently you get to build when you do that, and Contraband alone isn't a good enough reason to avoid commitment. What you really need for Contraband to be worth it is that it's the only source of +buy.
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markusin

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2018, 10:47:46 am »
0

Yeah the thing with Contraband is that you want it to help you build, and so your building with the Contraband has to be better than it would be without the Contraband, taking into account Contraband being basically a dead card when you want to green. As others have been saying, the +buy is the main reason Contraband might give you a deck building edge over something like Silver.
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Chappy7

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2018, 11:29:08 am »
0

I know you said you don't want to include edge cases, but there are a few really big ones when it comes to Contraband.  Colony/Platinum (As mentioned), Border Village, and Dominate being in the kingdom often make Contraband worth it. 

It is also better when there are very expensive and good cards like Overlord, City Quarter, Fortune, Kings Court, etc.  When you reach those high price points (or even when the opponent thinks you will) they are forced into letting you have the expensive card or two good cheaper cards of your choice. 
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Re: Contraband
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2018, 12:32:12 pm »
0

I think Contraband can be fine in the late-game if there are multiple good sources of VP. I played a Duke game recently where Contraband seemed fine. They couldn't block both Province and Duchy/Duke, and my deck could accommodate both. Feodum seems like another good example of Contraband being fine late-game.
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Re: Contraband
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2018, 12:40:05 pm »
+3

Itís also worth noting the advantage you have by giving your opponent as little information about your hand as possible. This means you normally play it as your first treasure, and that itís weaker when you need to reveal cards from your hand mid-turn, like with Menagerie or Legionary.

If you accidentally play your other treasures before Contraband, just undo :P

Contraband is interesting with Storyteller. It's gotta be a lot more difficult for your opponent to figure out what you want to buy --  or even will be able to buy --  if you play the Contraband not during your buy phase.

I feel Keep deserves a mention. I recently played a game where for the first time ever I saw the Contraband pile run out. It was the only source of +buy, so they could be used to pick up multiple treasures at once. Needless to say there were a LOT of Keep points being traded in that game.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2018, 12:47:06 pm by Dingan »
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crj

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2018, 12:47:13 pm »
+1

Other points which occur to me:

Contraband interacts especially badly with virtual coin, because you have to reveal this turn's spending level before something is banned. If your spend comes from treasures it's harder for opponent to guess.

Contraband is better when there's trash-for-benefit. I've found it can be fine as an affordable early accelerator for picking up engine components, if it can be turned into something with fewer limitations before the endgame.
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Screwyioux

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2018, 04:20:10 pm »
0

Other points which occur to me:

Contraband interacts especially badly with virtual coin, because you have to reveal this turn's spending level before something is banned. If your spend comes from treasures it's harder for opponent to guess.

Contraband is better when there's trash-for-benefit. I've found it can be fine as an affordable early accelerator for picking up engine components, if it can be turned into something with fewer limitations before the endgame.

You know, I actually had that second point in the article originally, but I took it out because someone pointed out that almost everything synergizes with TfB in the way Contraband does.
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aku_chi

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2018, 05:46:26 pm »
0

I think alternative VP deserves a special mention.  If you invest in a Contraband, you need to have a greening strategy that your opponent cannot fully disrupt.  I think I've only seen Contraband pay off with non-Province VP: Colonies have been mentioned, Fairgrounds sometimes make Contraband worthwhile, Dominate, Triumph, and Conquest make Contraband a lot better.
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crj

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2018, 07:39:56 pm »
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almost everything synergizes with TfB in the way Contraband does.
I'd say Contraband is special in that it's not cheap, and its usefulness drops off dramatically. Being able to recover your investment is particularly important.
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Chris is me

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2018, 10:13:12 pm »
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almost everything synergizes with TfB in the way Contraband does.
I'd say Contraband is special in that it's not cheap, and its usefulness drops off dramatically. Being able to recover your investment is particularly important.

Relatively expensive cards that diminish in value over time isnít really that special.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2018, 08:16:55 pm by Chris is me »
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crj

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2018, 09:11:17 am »
0

Relatively expensive cards that diminish in value over time isn’t really that special.
Contraband is still unusual: it's a cliff-edge, not merely a steep decline. If you bought an early Contraband because there were two expensive payload cards you wanted to buy in bulk and it didn't matter which you picked up on Contraband turns, when you start greening Contraband doesn't just diminish in usefulness, you can never play it again. Suddenly, you'd rather have Ruined Market!
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markus

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2018, 04:08:41 am »
0

I would mention that it's not a good idea to get it as an intermediate step towards Gold on a board where your economy comes from Treasures. In that case it's easy for your opponent to deny that by blocking Gold.
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ehunt

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2018, 09:08:41 am »
+1

I think the synergy with TfB in addition to "you can TfB the Contraband" is that "if you have TfB, then you're more flexible to buy whatever high-cost card you want, knowing you can TfB it later anyway." Expand-Contraband is a notable intra-Prosperity synergy.
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Cave-o-sapien

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #16 on: June 21, 2018, 10:02:09 am »
0

If you're a less skilled player than your opponent, Contraband seems less likely to be a good option for you.
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crj

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #17 on: June 21, 2018, 10:45:27 am »
+28

On the contrary! For a mere $5 and a buy, you can force your more skilled opponent to tell you what you ought to be buying.
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ClouduHieh

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #18 on: June 27, 2018, 08:31:51 pm »
0

Plus if you play contraband first. Then your opponent has to guess how much you have and choose. So he chooses province. Oops too bad I only have 7$ he chooses gold sure I had enough for gold Iíll just get another contraband or maybe a couple of silvers. Or I didnít have any coppers in play I guess Iíll get a grand market even better than a gold. So you just have to be smart and have a good poker face.

Plus itís interactive. We should have more cards like this.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2018, 08:33:32 pm by ClouduHieh »
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crj

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #19 on: June 28, 2018, 08:12:12 am »
+2

Iíll just get another contraband
Two Contrabands in one deck? Bibble!

Actually, thinking about it, Contraband would have been way cooler as an heirloom. I'm almost tempted to house-rule that some day.
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greybirdofprey

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #20 on: June 28, 2018, 10:39:00 am »
0

What happens if the player to your left is a mute?
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crj

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #21 on: June 28, 2018, 11:07:18 am »
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Uh... they write the name down, point to a card with their chosen name, or communicate in whatever other way they normally prefer?
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Screwyioux

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #22 on: June 28, 2018, 11:09:00 am »
+5

What happens if the player to your left is a mute?


We're going to call that an edge case.
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greybirdofprey

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #23 on: June 29, 2018, 08:38:55 am »
+3

One thing Contraband does great is teaching new players that you play your treasures one by one, and not all at the same time.
And that you actually play your treasures and not just flash them. That has also been bugging me.
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