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markusin

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Graverobber Revisited
« on: February 10, 2014, 06:41:58 pm »
+12

I've been meaning to finish this Graverobber article for quite some time now. The arrival of the 2014 Dominion Cards List was the push that got me to finish it. There is already a (werothe)great Graverobber article right here. Nevertheless, I decided to post this article of mine because:

1) We're more or less past the "ooh! Shiny Dark Ages cards" phase (and currently in the "Ohh! Shiny Guilds cards" phase). Despite this, I feel that a lot of players have trouble using this card effectively. With the newest edition of the card rankings coming up, I'd like to spur some discussion on it as people start their rankings.

2) My article takes a more skeptical approach than werothegreat's article.

3) This is my first Dominion article and I'm looking for feedback. Comments and criticism on both the writing style and the content of the article itself are welcome.

Alright then...

Graverobber

Graverobber is a card that requires a good deal of skill to use properly. Not only is it tricky to know when itís worth getting, but itís also really important to know at what point in the game to pick up Graverobber should you decide to get it.  Itís like the big guy in your typical fighting game: slow and awkward to use, but only needs a few precision strikes to achieve victory. This article aims to outline the considerations you should make when deciding whether or not your deck can use some Graverobbers.

The Worth of Graverobberís abilities
There are mainly three ways that Graverobber can prove useful:

1) Turning Action cards into VP cards:
The first thing that will come to most peopleís minds when looking at Graverobber is ďHow can I use it to gain ProvincesĒ. While itís by no means a one-trick pony, trashing Action cards for Provinces is definitely a powerful ability that can make the difference between winning and losing. You almost certainly want to have the potential of pulling this off if you do decide to get Graverobber.

Engines with lots of $5 cost Action cards that can reliably draw themselves tend to accept Graverobbers most readily. Such decks will find the Graverobber in your deck almost immediately. They are also more likely to have Action cards that can be sacrificed for Provinces. Often, such decks prefer getting a sudden surge of VP cards towards the end of the game instead of accumulating them gradually, and Graverobber helps towards this objective. In powerful engines, you ideally want to use Graverobber to end the game on a win before you need to lose time gaining cards back from the trash.

However, engines that are less reliable are more at risk of stalling once you add stop cards like Graverobber to it for this purpose. If you end up with Graverobber and a drawing card as the only Action cards in your hand early in your turn, youíll be faced with the dilemma of either playing your drawing Action card and hoping your turn picks up or trashing the Action card with Graverobber and stopping your turn dead to gain a Province. Weaker decks might benefit more by gaining an engine component over Graverobber to simply buy Provinces.

There is inherently more risk of Graverobber not colliding with any good Action cards to trash in a deck that doesnít draw much at all. However, those decks tend to be much more content with turns where you simply trash a $5 Action card (say, Mint,) to gain a Province. The 1-Province-a-turn payoff is relatively better in non-engine heavy decks that are just rushing to empty out the Provinces before too many more reshuffles pass. Itís worth weighting risk vs. reward before you make a firm decision about including Graverobber to your not-so-ideal-engine deck.

In rare cases, you might use Graverobber to trash action cards for VP cards besides Provinces. Having actions that can be turned into Duchies can help mitigate the loss of not being able to gain a Province with Graverobber, though itís still not as good as having bought a Duchy instead. Most of the time, gaining alt-VP with Graverobber is just going to be too slow, too risky, and too costly. One exception is with gaining colonies with Peddlers, but note that you canít gain Peddlers back from the trash without cost reduction. Also, $3+ action card->Fairgrounds is conceivably useful.

2) Turning Action cards into non-VP cards
Rarely do you want to pursue a strategy that heavily relies on Graverobber expanding actions for other actions. Itís bound to be very slow. Unlike the other members of the remodel family, Graverobber is very weak in the early game, where action density tends to be very low (and there isnít much wondrous stuff in the trash). Trashing a $3 Action card for a Grand Market can be nice, but chances are youíll still miss that $3 Action if you spend a gain on it. It's better when on-trash effects come into play, but lining it up with the right cards for on-trash benefits may be harder than connecting Treasure Maps.

Trashing actions for non-VP cards is best used in the mid-game to trash early game cards that have outlived their usefulness into ones you want in the near future. Early game trashers are prime targets.

3) Gaining cards from the trash
The potential to gain cards from the trash is rather significant. The gained cards are even top-decked. This is great when youíre gaining action cards from trash, as youíll be happy to see them very soon. Itís rather awkward to set things up so that you play the gained action on the same turn though. Every play that gains a card from the trash is one that wasnít used to expand an action card into a VP card. Gained VP cards, however, would usually be better off in your discard pile, where a Rogue would put them. In the middle of the road is the gaining of Treasure cards. Gaining Gold on top of the deck is less ideal for engines, but Gold is a powerful card in its own right. Graverobber might not be able to trash it for benefit, but there are other cards that can, like Remodel, Apprentice, Counterfeit, Stonemason, etc.

This brings up another point in Graverobberís favour. Graverobberís ability to gain from the trash is a great way to maintain a source of TfB fodder, even if Graverobber isnít your primary TfB card. You donít have to discard a card, or trash a card, or gain a VP card with it, or anything like that to get expensive trash fodder.

Keep a look out for the rare occasions where there are good actions in the trash abnormally early, which turns Graverobber into a super Armory. Knights, Pillage, and Saboteur are cards that can easily create that scenario. Also, don't miss the opportunity to gain a card with a desirable on-gain effect from the trash. This mostly applies to Inn and Border Village. In fact, Border Village/Graverobber is a powerful strategy that lets you gain more Graverobbers as you regain the Border Village from the trash for TfB fodder.

When to Get Graverobber
Here are some things you should ask yourself when considering to gain a Graverobber.

1) How often will I see the Graverobber before the end of the game?
Like with all action cards, the answer should usually be ďat least onceĒ. For Graverobber though, you have to consider that it will usually compete directly with Duchy. If you only see it once, then you want to maximize the chance that it was a better deal than a Duchy on the turn you do see it. Heavy cycling or not, seeing it 2-4 times before the end of the game is a sweet spot for Graverobber. Itís early enough that you get a few good chances to trash an action card into a Province. If youíll see it 5 or more times before the end of the game, you should ask yourself whether or not itís too early to get Graverobber. If thereís a high chance that the Graverobber will have something useful to do that early, then you can go for it. This often means that there's already plenty of good stuff in the trash to gain.

2) Whatís my action card density?
Trashing $5+ cost actions for Provinces is a neat ability. A deck that seeks to use this ability should be set up so that the majority of Graverobber plays will connect with the right cards. This might simply mean you have lots of expensive action cards. Decks with lots of action cards are more likely to have Graverobber find a target and will often find the trashing of one action card less detrimental.

That being said, decks with a lower density of expensive action cards can still work if they are abundant in sifters like Cellar and Warehouse. Sifters also help you find the most expendable action card to trash. Being able to transfer action cards from one hand to the next also adds reliability to your plans despite having a relatively lower number of actions in your deck. Some examples of these include Treasury, Scheme, and Haven.

3) Do I want multiple Graverobbers?
You probably do. More Graverobbers means more chances to gain Provinces. Graverobbers also have nice self-synergy. A Graverobber that fizzles can still top-deck an expensive action card for your other Graverobber(s) to trash next turn. And when it looks it youíve run out of fuel, you can trash a Graverobber with another Graverobber to complete that final push for the Provinces.

Whatís even better is playing it with Throne Room and the like. Top-decking an action for a Province with 1 action is rather neat, and so is gaining two Provinces with one action.

4) Are there Colonies?
Colony games tend to weaken Graverobber. To be more precise, they weaken the strategies that involve trashing lots of actions for Provinces. Even if Peddler is on the board, you have to remember that Peddlers canít be gained from the trash without cost reduction, so you have to win the Peddler split first when that's the case.

Like all gainers, Graverobber can still be the card that wins you the Colony game by letting you sneak an extra Province. Also, Graverobber will still be effective if you were mainly going to use it for its trash gaining ability.

Conclusion
Graverobber is a rather heavy card in that it needs a lot of support before it can be used effectively, but doesnít reciprocate much. Once you set up your deck to accept them though, they can deliver a large payload with very few plays. When the late game comes around, remember to re-evaluate them.

Works With
- Powerful engines looking for late greening
- High density of expensive action cards
- Cards with on-trash effects
- Lots of cards to gain from the trash
- TfB cards to refuel, including itself
- Cards with on-gain effects (i.e. Border Village)
- Sifters
- Cards that can transfer across hands (Treasury, Scheme, etc.)

Conflicts With
- Valuable deck components at the same price
- Decks that lack reliability and/or action density
- A lack of cards to gain from the trash
- Colony Games

Edit:
Oh yeah, here's a sample game:
http://dom.retrobox.eu/?/20131203/log.5080bad60cf2ab2c11d065ce.1386120016347.txt

Unfortunately, Conqueror Bot's idea of conquest didn't involve getting Mercenary, which could have really hurt my strategy. Nevertheless, I feel that this game does a good job of showing some of Graverobber's potential. I also make the mistake of trying to gain Peddler from the trash on Turn 12.

Edit 2: Added the Works/Conflicts with section and expanded the "What's my action density?" section. Also made a few minor wording edits.

Edit 3:Wording clarifications.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 12:42:32 pm by markusin »
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flies

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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2014, 11:16:37 pm »
+1

Trashing actions for other actions section might mention squire.

The article is missing a "works with" section.  I would say border village is a notable example here.

Pretty solid overall.
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markusin

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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2014, 11:29:58 pm »
0

Trashing actions for other actions section might mention squire.

The article is missing a "works with" section.  I would say border village is a notable example here.

Pretty solid overall.
Funny, I originally had a line that said "trashing a Squire with Graverobber while discarding a Market Square...", but I cut that as part of my effort to reduce the length.

I suppose every article needs a "works with" section, but I feel like in this case adding one will be a challenge best left for after I get some sleep. I wanted to refrain from mentioning specific combos that were mentioned in the previous article, but Border village really is a huge one.

Thanks for the compliment.
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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2014, 11:34:23 pm »
+2

Treasury is a great card to use with Graverobber, especially if you can play multiple Graverobbers and get Treasuries back.  It guarantees a $5 Action on top, and you can gain Provinces while continuing the Treasury chain (similarly to Expand, but Graverobber is better than Expand for this).
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markusin

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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2014, 11:46:20 pm »
0

Treasury is a great card to use with Graverobber, especially if you can play multiple Graverobbers and get Treasuries back.  It guarantees a $5 Action on top, and you can gain Provinces while continuing the Treasury chain (similarly to Expand, but Graverobber is better than Expand for this).
I was hoping I could somehow encompass all the neat combos into some general statements when I first conceived of the idea to write the article. However, the end result didn't quite meet the mark in the end.

I should expand on the action density section a bit to account for stuff like the Treasury Combo. Top-decking actions with Scheme can be effective in a similar way.
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markusin

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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2014, 08:58:44 am »
+1

I added the "Works/Conflicts With" section and expanded on the action density section. I also made more mention of specific cards, but tried to make the references to specific cards very brief.
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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2014, 10:51:13 am »
0

Combo with university is nice!
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markusin

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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2014, 12:50:43 pm »
0

Combo with university is nice!
Ooh that's a good one actually. University tends to help you build really reliable engines when viable, and Graverobber helps you make up for lost time.
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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2014, 01:01:35 pm »
0

So, Graverobber.

I don't think Graverobber is a particularly strong card, but... well, basically, you just don't get it if it's not going to do much for you, and it can really help out in some special cases.

I think sort of one of the main functions of Graverobber is to recover cards that by their very nature are likely to find their way to the trash. Some good examples: Feodum (having Graverobber in a Feodum game is actually a pretty huge advantage of your opponent), Knights (recovering them can help you win the Knight split, in a sense), Duchy in a Rebuild game, etc.
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markusin

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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2014, 01:14:46 pm »
+1

So, Graverobber.

I don't think Graverobber is a particularly strong card, but... well, basically, you just don't get it if it's not going to do much for you, and it can really help out in some special cases.

I think sort of one of the main functions of Graverobber is to recover cards that by their very nature are likely to find their way to the trash. Some good examples: Feodum (having Graverobber in a Feodum game is actually a pretty huge advantage of your opponent), Knights (recovering them can help you win the Knight split, in a sense), Duchy in a Rebuild game, etc.
Graverobber is, well, not like Lab. You can't Just add it to a random deck and hope it does something good for you. On the contrary, it actively harms your deck if you didn't get it in the right situation.

It's not flashy, but it can do enough to win you the game. The difficulty is indentifying when it's able to help you, and that's what this article seeks to address.

I would think that Rogue is better for gaining Feodums from the trash, and trashing your opponent's Feodum tends to be a good thing if you yourself are contesting Feodums. I do think Graverobber has potential in Knights games.
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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2014, 02:59:46 pm »
0

So, Graverobber.

I don't think Graverobber is a particularly strong card, but... well, basically, you just don't get it if it's not going to do much for you, and it can really help out in some special cases.

I think sort of one of the main functions of Graverobber is to recover cards that by their very nature are likely to find their way to the trash. Some good examples: Feodum (having Graverobber in a Feodum game is actually a pretty huge advantage of your opponent), Knights (recovering them can help you win the Knight split, in a sense), Duchy in a Rebuild game, etc.
Graverobber is, well, not like Lab. You can't Just add it to a random deck and hope it does something good for you. On the contrary, it actively harms your deck if you didn't get it in the right situation.

It's not flashy, but it can do enough to win you the game. The difficulty is indentifying when it's able to help you, and that's what this article seeks to address.

I would think that Rogue is better for gaining Feodums from the trash, and trashing your opponent's Feodum tends to be a good thing if you yourself are contesting Feodums. I do think Graverobber has potential in Knights games.

I serves to grab extra Provinces in the end game too. Playing two in a turn can get a Province and recover the lost card in the same turn.
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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2014, 03:37:03 pm »
+1

Combo with university is nice!
Ooh that's a good one actually. University tends to help you build really reliable engines when viable, and Graverobber helps you make up for lost time.

Plus it makes the "when do I start gaining graverobber" decision easier
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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2014, 03:38:28 pm »
+1

So, Graverobber.

I don't think Graverobber is a particularly strong card, but... well, basically, you just don't get it if it's not going to do much for you, and it can really help out in some special cases.

I think sort of one of the main functions of Graverobber is to recover cards that by their very nature are likely to find their way to the trash. Some good examples: Feodum (having Graverobber in a Feodum game is actually a pretty huge advantage of your opponent), Knights (recovering them can help you win the Knight split, in a sense), Duchy in a Rebuild game, etc.

In general I think if you aren't using it principally for the remodel, it is a mistake. I agree about Feodum though.
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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2014, 03:48:19 pm »
+2

In general I think if you aren't using it principally for the remodel, it is a mistake.

I disagree. I think that refusing to ever use the gain from trash is a mistake. Also, there are definitely some boards where the gain from trash can be more powerful than the remodel (Knights and Pillage being two good examples). However, there are some boards (usually with some good spammable $5 cards) where I use Graverobber primarily for the Remodel and only for the gain when I have no other option.
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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2014, 03:50:55 pm »
0

In general I think if you aren't using it principally for the remodel, it is a mistake.

I disagree. I think that refusing to ever use the gain from trash is a mistake. Also, there are definitely some boards where the gain from trash can be more powerful than the remodel (Knights and Pillage being two good examples). However, there are some boards (usually with some good spammable $5 cards) where I use Graverobber primarily for the Remodel and only for the gain when I have no other option.

I once made a University-Cultist-Graverobber deck. Gain a Province, draw three cards, gain another one and then get one of the cards back from the trash. Worked really well.
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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2014, 04:08:15 pm »
+1

In general I think if you aren't using it principally for the remodel, it is a mistake.

I disagree. I think that refusing to ever use the gain from trash is a mistake. Also, there are definitely some boards where the gain from trash can be more powerful than the remodel (Knights and Pillage being two good examples). However, there are some boards (usually with some good spammable $5 cards) where I use Graverobber primarily for the Remodel and only for the gain when I have no other option.

Sorry, I certainly didn't mean to refuse to gain ! I just meant on most boards you will find that if you can't use the remodel feature, the gain isn't strong enough. (I agree that Knights are a good exception -- but also because they are good GR targets.
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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2014, 04:13:19 pm »
0

In general I think if you aren't using it principally for the remodel, it is a mistake.

I disagree. I think that refusing to ever use the gain from trash is a mistake. Also, there are definitely some boards where the gain from trash can be more powerful than the remodel (Knights and Pillage being two good examples). However, there are some boards (usually with some good spammable $5 cards) where I use Graverobber primarily for the Remodel and only for the gain when I have no other option.

It's difficult to qualify what the "general case" is here.  Generally, when Graverobber is around, the only way to put useful 3-6's in the trash is graverobber itself.  But in this case, you can only gain-from-trash up to the number of times you put things in the trash (ignoring the opponent).  So in this "general case", you literally cannot use it principally for the gaining (if we consider the opponent trashing stuff to GR then aiming to gain that stuff is still a terrible idea generally).

The "general case" to which ehunt then must refer is one in which there are trashing attacks or TfB putting stuff in the trash or pillage.  Playing a pillage every turn is strong, so it's going to be worthwhile often (played an IRL game where I played Hunting Party stack with this - my opponent resigned, it was painful).  Knights are probably going to make it worth getting the graverobber for the gains - sab is iffy and swindler is doubtful.  But really, these cases are so different and the rest of what's on the board will be decisive in many cases, so it's hard to generalize.
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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #17 on: February 14, 2014, 04:41:26 pm »
+1

In general I think if you aren't using it principally for the remodel, it is a mistake.

I disagree. I think that refusing to ever use the gain from trash is a mistake. Also, there are definitely some boards where the gain from trash can be more powerful than the remodel (Knights and Pillage being two good examples). However, there are some boards (usually with some good spammable $5 cards) where I use Graverobber primarily for the Remodel and only for the gain when I have no other option.

Sorry, I certainly didn't mean to refuse to gain ! I just meant on most boards you will find that if you can't use the remodel feature, the gain isn't strong enough. (I agree that Knights are a good exception -- but also because they are good GR targets.

Bwa ha! I'm sorry. For some reason I thought you were originally claiming that you should be using it principally for the gain, not the Remodel. I just reread your post and realized I had it backwards! So I pretty much agree with your original claim. The boards where you get the Graverobber primarily for the trash fishing are significantly less common than the boards in which you use it mostly for the remodel, especially if you play full random. The more other Dark Ages cards you play with, the more likely you're using it for the trash gaining. Dark Ages games often have such a huge pile of trash.
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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #18 on: February 16, 2014, 09:13:31 pm »
0

I think Feodum, upgrade and Grave is quite a good combination though! Upgrade feoda to grave and use grave to get back feoda etc.. This will start to work when u get at least 3 upgrades I think...
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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #19 on: February 16, 2014, 09:20:34 pm »
0

I think Feodum, upgrade and Grave is quite a good combination though! Upgrade feoda to grave and use grave to get back feoda etc.. This will start to work when u get at least 3 upgrades I think...
You also want a village for that, preferably a cantrip one.
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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #20 on: February 23, 2014, 12:19:38 am »
0

Personally, I've found Graverobber's best friend to be Procession. With Prssn you have a lot of cards you want to play (you just want to play them twice), and you continually have to balance your gains so your engine doesn't stall out because you trashed all your draw. This also puts an excellent terminal on your action chain gains - bump Prssn's up to Grvr's have the Grvr's trash themselves in the final turn. Prssn just floods the trash with goodies and gives you a lot of action gain; all of which makes Grvr terribly strong. Now obviously this is not a two card combo, but with Grvr you really only need the crappiest engine setups - you don't need to fit in cash, you don't need to worry about having a giant stack of villages, and hey if you collide Grvr's you still get a province. As a further bonus, you can often top deck nice combos like Prssn/Smithy or something so next turn starts out really strong.

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LastFootnote

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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #21 on: February 23, 2014, 12:58:26 am »
+4

Personally, I've found Graverobber's best friend to be Procession. With Prssn you have a lot of cards you want to play (you just want to play them twice), and you continually have to balance your gains so your engine doesn't stall out because you trashed all your draw. This also puts an excellent terminal on your action chain gains - bump Prssn's up to Grvr's have the Grvr's trash themselves in the final turn. Prssn just floods the trash with goodies and gives you a lot of action gain; all of which makes Grvr terribly strong. Now obviously this is not a two card combo, but with Grvr you really only need the crappiest engine setups - you don't need to fit in cash, you don't need to worry about having a giant stack of villages, and hey if you collide Grvr's you still get a province. As a further bonus, you can often top deck nice combos like Prssn/Smithy or something so next turn starts out really strong.

"Prssn" and "Grvr"? Really?  :'(
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florrat

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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #22 on: February 23, 2014, 02:35:18 am »
+4

Personally, I've found Graverobber's best friend to be Procession. With Prssn you have a lot of cards you want to play (you just want to play them twice), and you continually have to balance your gains so your engine doesn't stall out because you trashed all your draw. This also puts an excellent terminal on your action chain gains - bump Prssn's up to Grvr's have the Grvr's trash themselves in the final turn. Prssn just floods the trash with goodies and gives you a lot of action gain; all of which makes Grvr terribly strong. Now obviously this is not a two card combo, but with Grvr you really only need the crappiest engine setups - you don't need to fit in cash, you don't need to worry about having a giant stack of villages, and hey if you collide Grvr's you still get a province. As a further bonus, you can often top deck nice combos like Prssn/Smithy or something so next turn starts out really strong.

"Prssn" and "Grvr"? Really?  :'(
Yeah, you definitely meant "Prcssn" and "Grvrbbr"
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Powerman

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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #23 on: February 24, 2014, 12:31:42 am »
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I think Feodum, upgrade and Grave is quite a good combination though! Upgrade feoda to grave and use grave to get back feoda etc.. This will start to work when u get at least 3 upgrades I think...

Better one is definitely Develop-Feodum-Graverobber. 
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Kfm

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Re: Graverobber Revisited
« Reply #24 on: August 08, 2014, 10:34:55 pm »
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Junk Dealers can make an excellent target.  In many games you get several and then they outlive their usefulness, and they can be turned directly into a provinces.

Here's a recent example
http://www.gokosalvager.com/static/logprettifier.html?/20140808/log.516cceeae4b082c74d79f558.1407545601798.txt
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