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Author Topic: Curses!  (Read 1470 times)

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AdamH

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Curses!
« on: December 04, 2012, 01:44:32 pm »
+1

After being handily beaten in the first round of the DS 2012 Championship, I'm attempting to learn from those games. Three of my four losses I think came down to mismanagement of cursing attacks. This must be a weakness in my game, so I want to focus on improving it.

Why are cursing attacks a weakness in my game? Well, I don't like cursers! It's more fun for me to build a deck and watch it do stuff, so whenever I can veto a curser on iso, I almost always do (except for Tournament and Black Market, which are auto-veto cards for me, and ironically, I don't think I'm half bad with). Perhaps I just lack experience with them. Even sometimes Ambassador, Saboteur, and Swindler and other junking attacks give me trouble. It seems my game is weaker when I have less control over what is in my deck.

On a tangential note, I am beginning to theorize that 3+ player games with junking attacks are just not worth playing because attacks just fly around so much you can't even stop them, and the winner isn't determined by who played the best, but rather by who was able to spike a lucky $5 to get a duchy more times than the others. It may be balanced, but I think the variance is through the roof and the fun is in the opposite direction.

Not liking cursers is not an excuse to be bad at playing them. If anything, it just makes me like them less. I'll state my general thoughts on cursers, link the games, ask some specific questions, and hopefully get smarter.

When I look at a board, the first thing I look for is a curser, because if it's there, you have to deal with it somehow. Winning with ten curses in your deck is nearly impossible. If an attack is capable of handing out curses and is not named Ambassador or Jester (or Young Witch with an awesome bane) then I need to deal with it.

How do I deal with cursing attacks? Well, worst-case, I just load up on the cursers and fight fire with fire, but there are some other options.

1. Play Defense. I actually really like this option if I can get away with it. If lighthouse, Masquerade (less so), Ambassador, a good bane card, Jack, or Trader (or any of the other ones I'm missing here) are on the board, I can counter the curser. A lot of the times the benefits of these cards are enough to outweigh the opportunity cost of picking up the curser and playing it. In these cases, I'm likely to not pick up the curser unless my opponent has decided, for some reason, not to pick up any of these counters. Game 1 of my match was one that involved this, and even though I won, preliminary feedback on the video suggests that I should have ignored the curser and just played defense; I think it's a little more complicated than that, but I'll link that game below as well.

2. Play Clean-up. If there's a strong engine on the board AND strong trashing, playing proactive clean-up and building the engine can still be dominant. This is also not mutually exclusive with doing the cursing myself, and is often a good supplement to it, since I'll hopefully be able to play my curser more often with a thin deck.

"Strong Trashing" in this case means any card that's capable of removing two bad cards from my deck, but with the exception of Forge (getting up to $7 while getting cursed is often too late to play clean-up unless Forge has some HUGE enablers, like Tactician or something). The jury is still out for me as to whether Trading Post fits in here or not.

The important thing here is to trash extremely aggressively, because if you fall behind in clean-up, your engine is underwater before you've built it and you are just totally screwed.

3. Ignore/Outrace it. I really struggle with this, as evidenced by two (!) of the games here. This is mostly the case with Familiar because of the potion cost, but I've heard legends of BM-based decks that ignore the cursing (without necessarily countering it) and just get to 5 or 6 provinces so quickly that they win a majority of the time. I have never, repeat, never been able to get this to work in practice. I feel like in this case, there is a lot of variance involved, where a majority of games are decided by whether or not the Familiar player can hit $3P before shuffling a second time.

4. Fight Fire with Fire. In the absence of any of this stuff, just try to win the cursing war and claw your way back up to Duchies, or maybe Provinces.

I think the area for improvement here comes with knowing which of these approaches to take in a given circumstance. I'll link four games from the match below and add some brief thoughts to it, and hopefully get some feedback.

[NOTE: I've added the video commentary for each of these games.]

Game 1: http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201212/03/game-20121203-183411-31a4af0f.html
Video:

Mountebank vs. Trader here. I actually won this game, and Trader as defense played a huge role for both of us. The main reason I'm bringing this up is because of the question of whether or not to even bother with Mountebank. I think as an opener, since we both opened 2/5, the first Mountebank might have been a good idea, but looking back, the second one might have been a mistake.

Some people on the video comments are saying that Cartographer might have been better than Mountebank or even Governor here. I might understand about Mountebank, but Governor? I'm still a little confused...

Game 4: http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201212/03/game-20121203-191712-e02b3dd3.html
Video:

Familiar vs. Hunting Party/Cutpurse here. I thought the HP Stack would be fast enough and resilient enough to curses to outrace a Familiar player. I was incorrect...

Game 5: http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201212/03/game-20121203-193246-1a5c65e9.html
Video:

(Attempted) Familiar vs. Wharf/IGG. The video gives my thought process here (when it actually gets uploaded). On a 5/2 opening, I decide to open Potion/Herbalist vs. my opponent's Wharf/nothing. It's a long time before I'm able to get $3P, and by the time I play my first Familiar, half the curses are in my deck from my opponent's IGGs.

In both games 4 and 5, I misjudge whether or not to go for Familiar. Granted, when my opponent went for it, he got there with flying colors, and when I did, I failed fantastically, but it couldn't have all been luck, right? I mean, I should have just gone for the IGG rush, even though I thought the presence of another curser made it completely ineffective (that's probably super-wrong, though, right?)

I thought Hunting Party plus a nice attack (especially one that was likely to keep him from hitting $3P early) would have been great against Familiars, and I thought after winning the HP battle that I'd still be able to compete. I can either blame luck for hitting $7 and $4 so much or blame myself for making that luck. Which should I do?

Game 7: http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201212/03/game-20121203-200114-e92cf3ab.html
Video:

Young Witch with Chancellor as a bane vs. Remake in a race to GM/Peddlers. The engine was there and I tried to play clean-up. I think I got rotten Remake luck, and I wasn't able to get silvers very fast. I don't know that I dealt with it in the best way possible, though.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2012, 08:09:54 am by AdamH »
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Jorbles

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Re: Curses!
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2012, 07:01:47 pm »
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Game 4: http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201212/03/game-20121203-191712-e02b3dd3.html

Familiar vs. Hunting Party/Cutpurse here. I thought the HP Stack would be fast enough and resilient enough to curses to outrace a Familiar player. I was incorrect...

I didn't look too closely at the other games, but in this one I do have something to say. Hunting Parties are resilient, to Cursing attacks, but they don't make up the 10 points you're behind. Even if you'd been able to get a 5/3 split on the Provinces, which becomes harder with 10 Curses in your deck even with Hunting Parties. You still would have been behind. Your opponent bought 7 Estates in a row without any +Buy or Gains, and you still couldn't even come close to catching up. There are few decks that can overcome being loaded up with 10 Curses, and I'd say all of the ones that can deal with it have ways to get rid of them. Sometimes you just have to wade in and try and give the Curses to your opponent before they give them to you.
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jonts26

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Re: Curses!
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2012, 07:19:19 pm »
+3

In 2 player games, you almost always want to play offense and try to win the curse split. Even in engines with good trashing, it is usually best to trash and curse. As rrenaud famously once said, "jerks win." There are of course right times to ignore the attack, but they are rare enough that you would do well to start from the vantage point of always getting them and then observe games where they weren't necessary in hindsight and slowly build in those edge cases into your game.
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DG

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Re: Curses!
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2012, 09:27:32 pm »
+1

For the first game I'd go with 2 traders with one mountebank. The first hit from a mountebank is the most damaging so yes you might as well get one. Skip the pearl diver. It takes up space in your hand that could be another card, such as trader or curse, during your opponent's turns.

Game 4 I ran through the simulator and it came out at 60/40 in favour of the familiar deck. That was after I made sure the simulator didn't buy the first province too soon!

Game 5 I think is basically igg play. As soon as a curse enters the first reshuffle for a potion deck, the familiars become a lot less likely to work. Even against a wharf opening the simulator prefers an igg.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2012, 09:31:06 pm by DG »
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AdamH

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Re: Curses!
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2012, 09:34:08 am »
0

First, I should announce that I've added in links to the videos for each game in the original post. Please check them out and let me know if you have any feedback based on that (even if it's just related to video quality, commentary, etc.) I made an effort to speak my entire thought process out loud, so chances are, if I didn't say something, it didn't cross my mind.

...I will warn you in these videos, the ones where I had the game basically lost, the last half of the video is a lot of "yeah I'm dead."

Now, to address these comments (thank you all for the comments, BTW).

Jorbles - my takeaway from your comment is that in 2P games, Hunting Party < Cursing, period. Does that sound accurate? I didn't want to wade in for curses because it would provide two more unique cards in my deck (I mentioned this in the commentary) and I thought that would hurt my HP stack more. Obviously, slowing down my opponent was a consideration, but I had thought I could outrace him, and that didn't turn out to happen.

Jonts - This makes sense. If I'm trying to categorize situations where I don't buy cursers, would we say that they are completely contained within:

1. Play defense (probably when there is a hard counter like Amb or Trader available, or maybe an awesome bane for YW)

3. Outrace -- but I have clearly never seen this happen. Is there a log or a situation or something where this has happened? If this really just comes up less than 1% of the time without some support from my other numbers, then maybe I should just cut this out of my thought process?

DG - When looking at game 5 as an IGG game, it makes a lot more sense. Going for Familiar was a mistake, which is what cost me the game, but I think the real issue for me is that I don't completely understand IGG. I've always seen IGG as a rush card and never as a legitimate curser. I thought that the presence of any other curser invalidated IGG and you should just go for that instead, but clearly there are exceptions. Is Familiar just the only one? Hmm, now that I think about it, I might say that YW/good bane is another one, and I might take one in a Sea Hag slog if I hit $5...
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Drab Emordnilap

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Re: Curses!
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2012, 09:42:10 am »
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I thought that the presence of any other curser invalidated IGG and you should just go for that instead, but clearly there are exceptions. Is Familiar just the only one? Hmm, now that I think about it, I might say that YW/good bane is another one, and I might take one in a Sea Hag slog if I hit $5...

It depends on how broadly you define curser, but Jester or Torturer wouldn't dissuade me from IGG.
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HiveMindEmulator

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Re: Curses!
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2012, 11:50:26 am »
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I thought that the presence of any other curser invalidated IGG and you should just go for that instead, but clearly there are exceptions. Is Familiar just the only one? Hmm, now that I think about it, I might say that YW/good bane is another one, and I might take one in a Sea Hag slog if I hit $5...
I think the presence of other cursing attacks messes up the IGG-Curse-Duchy 3-pile, but it doesn't necessarily make IGG unusable. If there's no way to recover from the Curses into an engine, then you should get IGGs too to try to win the curse split and to use as money.
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Jorbles

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Re: Curses!
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2012, 06:09:55 pm »
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Jorbles - my takeaway from your comment is that in 2P games, Hunting Party < Cursing, period. Does that sound accurate? I didn't want to wade in for curses because it would provide two more unique cards in my deck (I mentioned this in the commentary) and I thought that would hurt my HP stack more. Obviously, slowing down my opponent was a consideration, but I had thought I could outrace him, and that didn't turn out to happen.

Well maybe, HiveMindEmulator's sim seems to support that. If I had to say something definitive I'd say that in general the following applies though:
Cursing + Hunting Party > Cursing > Hunting Party.
The logic behind this being that the Hunting Parties let you skim over Curses in your deck and find your Curser to play it more often.

This might always be the case, but it's a good general rule to work from. I'm not a simulator whiz, so running this through the simulator might establish this a bit more confidently or bring to light some edge cases where it doesn't apply.
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