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WanderingWinder

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Cartographer
« on: December 18, 2012, 05:23:54 pm »
+9

Cartographer is one of hose cards that has taken me a long time to try to wrap my head around. And while I don't think I'm a perfect expert, I do think I finally have a pretty decent grip on the card.


General - What are the plusses?
The first thing is, it's a cantrip. So it can't hurt you (except for terminal draw, triggering reshuffles (which cartographer will do more often than most things), getting hit by discard attacks, etc. etc.). But beyond this, what are the plusses?

A Comparison
I think it's useful to compare it to that old standard, Laboratory. Lab, on top of the cantrip, draws another card. Cartographer, instead, lets you look at the top four, discard any, and reorder the rest. Well, the big thing here is the discarding. If you discard nothing, lab was almost surely better for you. If you discard one, again, lab could have drawn one, you would have preferred it. But if you start discarding two or three (or four, though this is pretty rare), cartographer starts coming away as better quite a lot.


Tactics
This takes us to the bulk of the article - Cartographer is not SO much a card about strategic understanding (don't get me wrong, that is there too), but rather mostly a card that you need to understand tactically, which is what a large part of this article will focus on.

Discarding
So what do you discard? The obvious answer is bad cards. (Okay, maybe the obvious answer is tunnels). But what constitutes a bad card? Basically, how bad a card is depends on the relationship it has to the other cards in your deck; the worse it is in relationship to them, the more you want to discard it. Conversely (and more importantly, generally), the BETTER other cards are, the more you want to cycle through what it is you are looking at.

An Interlude to Strategy
The strategic poster-child for this kind of nuance is mountebank. In a mountebank war, you are trying to play that as many times as possible, particularly early on, so you will skip past everything and it's brother to get to it. And after the cursing is done, cartographer is really good to get past all those worthless curses and worth-not-so-much coppers. So in a mountebank game, you definitely want Cartographer over Lab (though, unsurprisingly, you generally want Hunting Party over either one...).
Basically though, strategically what you want for your deck is inhomogeneity AKA large variance AKA you want a big difference in quality between your cards. If your cards are pretty similar in value, Cartographer does you very little good (and lab is pretty darn excellent). But if they're very different, it can be stellar.


Reordering
The other big part of how you play Cartographer has to do with the reordering. Now, lots of times, it just doesn't matter. But there are lots of times when it does. This is particularly the case when you have other cantrips. The big thing here is to figure out what you need this turn, and what it is you need later. So with a hand of Gold-Silver-Copper-Cartographer-Province, you play that cartog, draw a great hall, and see Estate, Estate, Gold, Silver. You should obviously pitch the estates, and then move your silver on top of your gold - you only need $8 right now, that 9th coin won't help at all. But the difference between gold and silver might be  of crucial importance.

Subtleties
Okay, but that is a bit of an obvious example. There are many things which are more subtle. For instance, if you have a Village in hand, along with a silver and 3 copper, and cartographer revealed gold-village-village-curse, you should probably ditch the curse, and put the gold on top. Lots of times I will see people put the extra cards first, because they'll get a 'better turn' this turn (particularly true if, say, one of the villages were a peddler...) The only other way that you MIGHT want to play it is to dump both the gold and the curse, and use your cantrips to draw through to the next card; you really only want to go for that if you're playing for a big engine and/or you KNOW that the card after is a draw card (say because you're an expert deck tracker and it's the last thing in your deck).

Expounding on this, there are going to be times where you actually want to keep one of the bad cards (this is not really a good use of cartographer, but it can happen). Consider an example where you have peddler-gold-gold-gold-cartographer, cartographer draws a copper, and then you see estate-platinum-gold-gold. You should just let stuff sit here. You need to use peddler, but you don't want to draw a good card, so let yourself draw the estate, buy that colony.
Now, an example like that is weird, because you shouldn't be playing that kind of deck with cartographer really. But similar examples will come up all the time, and you need to be able to say, okay, I am going to hang on to those bad cards. Much like paying 8 for an herbalist, it grinds against our internal instincts, but sometimes you need to do it.
The other thing you have to be worried about is triggering reshuffles - this can make you keep cards that you would otherwise pitch, or occasionally pitch borderline cards you'd otherwise keep.


Order of play
And here is the other big tactical point of playing cartographer. Like most filter-the-next-stuff cards (e.g. apothecary, pearl diver, lookout, scout, and, when you have spare actions, duchess and navigator), you want to play this before other cantrips, so you can work out exactly when you draw different things. Generally. But, if you already KNOW what is on your deck, and you want to keep it, then you want to play at least most of your other cantrips first, up to the point where the draw of the cartographer picks up the last known card of the deck. Sometimes - in fact, I'd say usually - you also want to hold back one cantrip in order to be able to draw something that you might dredge up in the next four cards.


Card Interactions

Note: I am not talking about Dark Ages cards here, having played very little with them.

Combos
Wishing Well
Cartographer turns Wishing Well into Lab, if you keep more than one card (you usually want to) to make a very nice non-terminal draw engine. By itself, this is decently strong but nothing to really write home about. Add in a strong non-draw terminal or two and you have a potent deck.

Tunnel.
It discards tunnels (and coppers and estates and maybe silvers at some point) and gets you to those golds faster. This is not very strong, though, without some more enablers. This could easily therefore also go down as a nombo.

Platinum

Yes. Okay, not really a combo, but it works pretty nice for colony games.

Cantrips in general
These are basically what let you use the ordering ability of cartographer.

Cursers
Cartographer wins you the war, then cycles past the curses in your deck. Win.


Nombos
(i.e. you think these work well, but in practice, it doesn't work out so hot).
Stash
Hey, it cycles you really really fast. Good luck getting so many 5s very fast though.

Apothecary
You'd think more filtering is better, but these generally just end up stepping on each others toes.

Scout
I'd say this is the same thing as apothecary, except moreso, but then nobody thinks scout is good 'better' than just about anything....


Anti-Combos
(i.e. these cards actively dislike each other)
Trader
You really don't want a silver flood here - you want variation in cards.

Terminal Draw
Like any other cantrip

Strong Trashing
Well, cartographer can skip worthless trashers later on, but if your deck is already all good cards, you don't need its effect so much (and there's probably something better)

Jack of All Trades
See the note on Trader. Also Jack already sifts for you, and is very mild terminal draw.

HiveMindEmulator

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2012, 05:37:56 pm »
+2

Nice article. The only thing I want to re-emphasize is that you don't actually need any combos to make Cartographer useful. In an untrashed deck, Cartographer is usually better than Lab (and Silver, if you don't have terminal draw), because your success usually depends mostly on hitting the big cards. Mountebank is the extreme example of this, but it's true for any other non-trashing BMish strategy.
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ftl

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2012, 05:51:23 pm »
+3

From Dark Ages, obvious combo to add is Cartographer/Mystic.
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WanderingWinder

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2012, 06:06:03 pm »
+1

From Dark Ages, obvious combo to add is Cartographer/Mystic.
Well, I thought of this, but have never played with both even once. Also I'm worried that it might be nombo-ish a la stash.

dondon151

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2012, 06:06:28 pm »
+1

A stack of Cartographers can substitute for trashing if trashing doesn't exist in the kingdom.

Actually, as pointed out earlier, Cartographer is lackluster in a trashed deck. It does provide some resilience to green, however, especially if an engine needs to sustain itself for a couple more turns.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2012, 06:07:42 pm by dondon151 »
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LastFootnote

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2012, 06:07:25 pm »
+1

Great article. I'm surprised you list terminal draw under anti-combos, though. For cards that give +3 Cards, I agree. For cards that give +2 Cards (Steward) or +1 Card (Pawn), I'd think Cartographer could help you draw some Treasure and leave your Actions on top. Is that not really the case in practice? I could easily see most cantrips outshining these options, in any case.

Also, you might consider playing some Dominion on Goko. It's pretty smooth these days and it's nice to be able to play with the Dark Ages cards.
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WanderingWinder

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2012, 06:23:54 pm »
+2

Great article. I'm surprised you list terminal draw under anti-combos, though. For cards that give +3 Cards, I agree. For cards that give +2 Cards (Steward) or +1 Card (Pawn), I'd think Cartographer could help you draw some Treasure and leave your Actions on top. Is that not really the case in practice? I could easily see most cantrips outshining these options, in any case.

Also, you might consider playing some Dominion on Goko. It's pretty smooth these days and it's nice to be able to play with the Dark Ages cards.
Sure, if you get it with the terminal draw, it can smooth you out a bit. Not a ton. But you also don't want to draw it dead. It works fairly well with those two cards specifically, because they have other options, but you don't really want it with, say, moat.
This isn't to say that you can't play with both of those cards, only that they anti-synergize: the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

The Goko thing - I will consider it if they can convince me they have any wits about security. Considering the glaring holes they had at some point, and their insistence that that wasn't a big issue, I don't see that happening soon.

KingsSkort

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2012, 07:04:24 pm »
+1

I have a theory question about whether it's quite accurate to say that cantrips are always a plus for a cartog strat. Imagine you play your cartog and you see Curse, Curse, Curse, pearl diver. You don't know if that PD is going to give you a curse or a gold. A cantrip effectively reduces your depth of vision into your deck. Now obviously, if the cantrip has value, it's still good. But if your deck is too full of cantrips, your cartographer won't see far enough to be very useful.

As a practical matter, I don't know if this is ever important though.
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shark_bait

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2012, 07:08:47 pm »
+1

The large benefit of Cartographer is being able to see the top of you deck and pick which card you want. To pick what card you want, you need +Card and cantrips are perfects for getting that single card.  Paying $5 for said card is expensive.  I'd rather pay $2-$4 and pick up Cartographers at $5.
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Axxle

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2012, 07:17:47 pm »
0

I just played a series of 4 games where cartographer was in 3 of them.  Destroyed me not getting them early in 2 of those.  Beautiful in scrying pool with no trashing.
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DG

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2012, 07:40:00 pm »
+2

I wonder if they are more effective in small decks, on the grounds that if you discard 2 cards from a draw deck of 14 cards it is more significant than if you discard 2 from a deck of 24 cards. Someone posted up a cartographer-moneylender game and it did start me thinking about it.

It might be worth comparing a cartographer to a warehouse as well as a lab. Your prelude, tactics, and discarding can unsurprisingly apply to a warehouse. The warehouse only looks at 3 cards but seemingly has much more going from it in terms of hand control. Top of the deck management is nice but not ridiculously powerful, so the real benefit from the cartographer is keeping the hand size when playing more than one cartographer in a turn, something that can be a serious problem for the warehouse.
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WanderingWinder

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2012, 07:57:50 pm »
+1

I wonder if they are more effective in small decks, on the grounds that if you discard 2 cards from a draw deck of 14 cards it is more significant than if you discard 2 from a deck of 24 cards. Someone posted up a cartographer-moneylender game and it did start me thinking about it.

It might be worth comparing a cartographer to a warehouse as well as a lab. Your prelude, tactics, and discarding can unsurprisingly apply to a warehouse. The warehouse only looks at 3 cards but seemingly has much more going from it in terms of hand control. Top of the deck management is nice but not ridiculously powerful, so the real benefit from the cartographer is keeping the hand size when playing more than one cartographer in a turn, something that can be a serious problem for the warehouse.

Yeah. Actually, it's probably more accurate to say that I'm contrasting it to lab. it plays most similarly to like apothecary, and acts as a nice cantrip sifter - and of course warehouse is the prototypical sifter.

I would say it's more effective in small decks, but on the other hand, you still want a diversity in card strengths - if you have 8 cards because you've trashed down to a small deck of highly effective cards, this won't do you much good unless you have a specific combo (i.e. wishing well and tunnel can still be good in this kind of situation).

soulnet

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2012, 08:14:03 pm »
+1

I think you may add that Cartographer anti-synergize with diggers (not that they render each other unuseful, but Farming Village, Golem and Venture lose some of its power if you Cartographer your top of the deck before playing them). Ok, maybe Cartographer-Venture may work a little bit, and Farming Village may also have some use for Cartographer to get to the actions or better treasure than Copper, but for Golem, it seems that unless you have pretty bad actions, Cartographer does not add much.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2012, 02:12:28 pm by soulnet »
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Obi Wan Bonogi

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2012, 09:15:01 pm »
+2

Nombo: Possession.  Somewhere around here is Stef's post about a brutal possession game vs me where I had a huge lead early but he was able to lock me down with possession and my cartogrophers for the final three or four turns.  Not a fond memory.
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Serialian

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2012, 11:16:59 pm »
+2

Possession isn't really a nombo with cart, it just is one of those cards that it's particular brutal to have in your deck if you're fighting possession.

Envoy, Masquarade, remodel/expand spring to mind as other examples.

nombo isn't something that is particularly brutal, it's more something that at first glance looks like it works well together, but when actually put into practice it sucks.
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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #15 on: December 19, 2012, 10:36:03 am »
+1

I'd say Cartographer isn't at all bad with drawing terminals, and is pretty good with drawing terminals. In a board with no +actions other than cantrips, Cartographer can help make sure that you only get one terminal at a time, and get that terminal most turns.

I'd also say that one of Cartographer's greatest strengths is the insight/control it gives you with regards to the next turn. Say you know there are 2 provinces left and you can buy one this turn. Playing cartographer might let you know you can buy one next turn too, making breaking the PPR a smaller gamble that it might be.

Also, once your current hand has achieved its goal ($8, or whatever) you can then choose carefully how to stack your next hand, and even opt not to play a cartographer in hand once your next hand is where you want it to be (say you have gold, gold, silver, estate, cartographer in hand, and your last cartographer revealed/created a stack of cartographers on the deck)
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() | (_) ^/

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #16 on: December 19, 2012, 11:34:58 am »
+1

A stack of Cartographers can substitute for trashing if trashing doesn't exist in the kingdom.

Actually, as pointed out earlier, Cartographer is lackluster in a trashed deck. It does provide some resilience to green, however, especially if an engine needs to sustain itself for a couple more turns.

This this this.

I have looked at boards before with absolutely no way to increase handsize (or even weak Draw-to-X like JoaT), and yet have played a full-bore engine due to Cartographer.  Plenty of cantrips.

The engine depends on being able to draw the right cards, not necessarily on being able draw a ton of cards.  Cartographer does this VERY well.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2012, 01:37:32 pm by () | (_) ^/ »
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jomini

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #17 on: December 24, 2012, 01:25:39 pm »
0

Cartographer can also be strong in bloat decks. Take something like Herbalist/Pstone with colonies out. After you have enough potions and before you want duchies, Cartographer can let you much better burn through the dross to hit some key cards. Other examples can include things like Black Market/Vineyard, Foedum/Trusty Steed, and Fairgrounds/Haggler. Cartographer works really well at enabling alt-VP combos; particularly when you can't or don't want to stock up too heavily on the enabling cards.

The big problem here is that Cartographer competes heavily with a lot of the payout cards for bloat decks (you want to buy Duchies/Dukes, Gardens, Silk Roads instead of Cartographers a lot of the time) or with their enabling cards (e.g. Horse Traders, Iw, and Haggler). A few combos don't have this problem and Cartographer can work really well there by sifting and lining up exact requirements (e.g. 4 coin + Haggler), and then getting back to it sooner.
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ehunt

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #18 on: December 24, 2012, 01:45:40 pm »
0

one place cartographer works particularly well is in a highway-centric deck, obviously in the context of non-terminal +buy, but even without them, because cartographer allows you to green while still reliably playing enough highways to do a "trick" (like ironworks, remodel, or just terminal +buy).. highway also takes care of the "this is a good combo but all the cards in it cost 5" problem that you alluded to with most of the other combos.
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dondon151

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #19 on: December 24, 2012, 04:05:20 pm »
+1

After you have enough potions and before you want duchies,

There's a time before you want Duchies?
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jomini

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #20 on: December 24, 2012, 04:31:19 pm »
0

After you have enough potions and before you want duchies,

There's a time before you want Duchies?

In a colony match, yes. Lining up a double colony turn or a colony/province turn by lining up multiple Pstones and an Herbalist beats a duchy pretty well. You need a big point source, otherwise you are better just getting a duchy now and one later instead of trying for the big hand. Lining up multiple Pstones isn't so useful in just province games - it takes too much effort and the rewards are too minimal; colony games are a different beast.
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-Stef-

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #21 on: December 24, 2012, 06:25:56 pm »
+3

For those who aren't convinced about possession nonbo's... I'm more then willing to post a link (don't click it Obi Wan ;))

But on a more constructive note:

* You say mountebank loves cartographer and I agree. But not just because of the cycling, also because it allows you to put a moatcurse in your next hand.
* Cartographer is good with cards that need each other in general. Baron/Estate comes to mind, but also KC+strong card.
* Cartographer is *the* best friend for the "single native village plan". Get rid of all your green without losing the points.
* Cartographer can be game dominating with a good old moat against any curser. Most plans to construct a moat-hand with a fail, but this is one that actually has a chance (alongside courtyard and maybe scheme)
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zahlman

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #22 on: December 29, 2012, 12:23:29 am »
0

Regarding Tunnel and Stash, I think the big point is that you're planning to pay $5 for 4 cards of cycling/discarding, when you could pay $4 for 5 with Navigator (and get +$2 while you're at it). Sure, Cartographer is non-terminal, but these are conditions under which you might not stack Cartographers very effectively, and you have to be able to gain multiple Cartographers in order to stack them.

Basically, this is a card that does multiple things, so if you only want it for one thing that it does, then it's kind of expensive. (But then, we all learned the JoaT lesson, so...)
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jomini

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Re: Cartographer
« Reply #23 on: December 29, 2012, 08:54:11 am »
+2

For those who aren't convinced about possession nonbo's... I'm more then willing to post a link (don't click it Obi Wan ;))

But on a more constructive note:

* You say mountebank loves cartographer and I agree. But not just because of the cycling, also because it allows you to put a moatcurse in your next hand.
* Cartographer is good with cards that need each other in general. Baron/Estate comes to mind, but also KC+strong card.
* Cartographer is *the* best friend for the "single native village plan". Get rid of all your green without losing the points.
* Cartographer can be game dominating with a good old moat against any curser. Most plans to construct a moat-hand with a fail, but this is one that actually has a chance (alongside courtyard and maybe scheme)

Is Cartographer really the best friend of a single native village to hide green? Cartographer is really good about decreasing the number of effective green in your deck its own right; also because cartographer doesn't add any inherent value to a hand you MUST be playing another strong card to hit province off those hands. I'm sure that Cartographer/Nv works fine for a lot of boards - ones where you have other strong cards and ones where you are going engine ... it just seems to be not a lot better than pure cartographer/money if you are just going cartographer/Nv/money.

I mean is it really better than Apothecary/Nv? Cartographer can just discard the green, Apoth gets it stuck and benefits a lot more from de-greening.
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