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Author Topic: "Brokenly" strong combos  (Read 3597 times)

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theory

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"Brokenly" strong combos
« on: June 17, 2011, 04:56:55 pm »
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Dude!

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack cards on fire off the shoulder of uh Prosperity.

The main set once had a card that said simply "Each other player trashes the top card of his deck." It cost $4. This card goes back to the first game of Dominion. It was a day one card. It was around for a while, then I made variations on it. It's just one of the most basic kinds of attacks, presented in its simplest form. As I have explained in multiple Secret Histories, it has three problems: 1) usually weak, trashing Coppers and Estates; 2) very swingy, hitting my Copper and your Province; 3) can reduce everyone to 5 card decks, with no hope of escape.

I have seen those 5-card decks so many times. I have seen everyone at 5 cards with at least two people having the attack, so there's no going anywhere for anyone. I have seen some players have playable decks while other people have 5 cards. I have seen some people make progress despite just having 5 cards (I recommend Remodel). One common way for these attacks to play out is, we buy out the pile, and thrash around, and the cards trash each other, and then eventually one person has one or two left and we can actually play, from whatever position we ended up in. Sometimes your position then is not so good. I have seen one player shut out with just 2 Coppers for money and no Coppers or Estates in the supply, while four other players could keep playing. He got to decide whether to buy Curse or do nothing. He bought some Curses but did not seem really committed to that plan.

Originally there were 45 Curses. It didn't scale; I hadn't worked that out yet. In a 2-player game, you could get 45 Curses. If they were trashed, they went back into the Curse pile, so you could get them back. You will need two copies of the game if you want to have as many Curses as I've had.

It was not immediately obvious that discarding had to be "discard down to 3" or something else limiting. I have seen people locked out of cards. I have seen people just never making progress through their deck, Bureaucrat-style. When the main set stole Library and Festival and Gardens from Alchemy, it also took Village Idiot: $3, "+2 Actions, each other player discards a card." It looked so innocent. When Bureaucrat ended up like it did (from a starting point of "+$2, each other player puts a card from his hand on his deck"), I knew it had potential to lock people out, but was sure that "gain a Silver" made that just too hard to keep doing.

There are four kinds of attacks in Dominion, not counting a couple kinds that don't count, and if you think Spies at least can't break games then you are learning something here today. I have seen so much Spying. There was one card that had you Spy before every attack you played resolved. It was a village. So you'd play four of them and then make four decisions per player per attack you played.

Among the kinds that don't count, a memorable one had players set aside two victory cards before scoring, and not score them. It attacked your score directly. So with this one... you're way ahead of me. That's exactly how it plays out.

There was a card that played all of the attacks from your deck. We are a couple secret histories away from hearing about that one, though it debuted in Intrigue. Some fun memorable games with that. Man I hope you got your Moat this turn, or you are in for so much pain.

Of course you don't need attacks to get messed up games. I've gotten endless turns with a version of Outpost that had hoped it wasn't broken. Workshop looks innocent, but you can easily push that concept too far; I've been in a bunch of games where someone gained a pile of cards and drew and played them all the same turn, including more copies of the cards that were making this happen. I've had six Possessions without buying any of them and lost. There have been multiple ways to instantly buy out a pile, way easier than a big string of Bridges.

Tracking issues, I've got your tracking issues. There was once a Throne Room variant: $3, "+1 Card +1 Action. Play an action twice. Each other player plays it on their next turn." Of course you use it on itself and make everyone else play an action for everyone else. That card was strong and fun and most people were scared to touch it.

Oh hey here's one: King's Court originally cost $5.

Anyway you know? I've been around! I have seen the game so severely messed up in every possible direction. Of course I've seen someone with a 0-card deck, of course I've seen someone locked out of having cards in their hand ever. Of course I personally have sat there, locked out, various ways. Man. That stuff just happens, it's the default situation. It's work to make it not happen. Even Masquerade makes it happen, that's how ubiquitous it is.

And really. I have been in so many games that were messed up, but were also a blast. All this cool stuff. There was a game where some players were soft-locked out of having cards costing more than $2, and one player won with a deck based on $2's. One of those $2's isn't out yet, but one day it will be, and when that day comes, no-one will build that deck, because man, you can just buy better cards. It's not like you have to make a deck of all $2's work, what craziness would that be.

Ultimately the problem is, whatever broken card it is, it tends to do its thing every game it's out. It's not just a sometimes thing. And I always think, if only I could make this only happen once in a blue moon, because I can't print this card, but man that game was fun.

So where were we. King's Court / Masquerade.

I have not been destroyed by that combo. You've got me there.

I would like to share two logs with you.

The first one: http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201103/17/game-2011031...

I do not know these guys, but saw this in some Magic forums. Jungbluth proposed the game, trying to beat up the other guy, as he did many times to different people on isotropic. This game he specifically chose the set of 10 cards from theory's blog's annotated game, only with Embargo replacing Pawn, I guess because Pawn was part of the winning strategy in the annotated game. His opponent won, despite being reduced to zero cards in his deck on turn 20. The game features plays like "Embargo Monument, buy Monument" and "Buy Copper, gaining two Curses."

Isotropic logs are emotionless things. Who knows how these people felt about the game while they were playing it. Maybe they cursed my name while helplessly manipulating their piles of cards.

Still I am just thinking, what a cool game. You don't get to say "once I was reduced to a zero card deck and still won" unless some crazy combo can trash all of your cards.

The second one: http://dominionstrategy.com/2011/03/15/annotated-game-5/

That game I was mentioning from theory's site. King's Court and Masquerade are present. One player bought both. The combo did not come up. You do not just look at the cards and think, "I will eat your deck with Masquerade." Well unless you've played these cards already. And then maybe you still don't manage it.

This game was on the blog to showcase a different exotic strategy - King's Court / Pawn. It was an unusual game in its own way, despite neither player ever buying double-Embargo'd Copper.

Masquerade isn't a single card that locks your opponent out of the game by itself. If it were it wouldn't be in a set; surely I can catch one-card combos. When a more complex combo locks you out, that's not some hypothetical card that says "you win but everyone hates you." It's a complex combo! You try to spot these combos, and try to implement them well, and when someone does they have an exotic game and everyone has a story to tell. The winner didn't just pay the appropriate price for "you win;" they saw and implemented the combo. It's like a game or something!

Whereas, if you solve a puzzle and then compete with someone else to solve that puzzle faster, well, that's just the sorry world we live in. It's not the puzzle's fault.

Man I do go on. Both of those paragraphs would have been good endings for this post. Not to mention ending it before the links. And yet here I am, talking on. Another thing is, that if the cards are all just "+$2," the game isn't much fun. And the cards that interact with other players can't just be "other players can't buy Curse on their next turn" or "+1 Card if no-one minds." You can't come back from a losing position unless you're in a losing position first. You can't do something clever unless the game gives you opportunities to do clever things. You can't per aspera ad astra unless there's some aspera in front of your astra. And that means sometimes the aspera gets you.

Since anything I say that's positive about something will naturally be construed as me saying there's nothing negative about it, and so on, even if I just said the opposite clearly - man, the internet, huh? - I will repeat: if the combo-specific testing that never happened since we didn't catch the combo had shown that those two cards working alone, King's Court and Masquerade, got you the lock, I expect I would have nerfed it, as I have other such things that appear at similar rates in random games. If it turned out you had to have one of say three other cards for the combo to work, then I expect I would have left it as is. I guess you have to ask, which expansion's playtesting was going on, because it's easier and better to tweak Masquerade here than King's Court.
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