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An analysis on Fisherman


Fisherman is a Peddler variant with a surprising amount of depth to it. On the surface it may seem like a card you want more of that is hard to get in multiples, but veteran players will quickly realize that its flexible cost has both upsides and downsides and aim to manipulate its upsides in its favor. Today I'm going to try and cover Fisherman's abilities, synergies, antisynergies, and general strategy to show that there's more to this card that meets the eye.


Fisherman costs $5 unless your discard pile is empty, where it costs $2. Like Peddler and its variants, it gives +1 Card, +1 Action, +$1. Given that you have a 1/2 shot of having your first hand give less coins than your second (Cursed Gold, etc. aside) opening 3/4 or especially 2/5 with Fisherman on the board can be great for your deck. You normally only get one or less Fishermen per shuffle due to the cost fluctuation. Fisherman tends not to pileout on most boards.


Fisherman works well with cards that allow you to gain to places other than your discard pile as it still costs $2 if it isn't moved to your discard pile. Notable cards with this interaction include:

* Gainers to hand (Sculptor, Falconer, Cobbler)
* Topdeckers (Royal Seal, Armory, Replace, WotSeal)
Notable Interaction: Travelling Fair

Have you ever wanted effectively 3-cost Fishermen? If so, Travelling Fair is your best friend! Buy an equal amount of Travelling Fairs and Fishermen, topdecking all of them to keep your discard pile clean! Plus, you get the Treasury effect of carrying the coins over to next hand for a turn! It's really easy to empty Fishermen with this combo, given you can build your economy up early to support it. Spike 6 and Travelling Fair-Fisherman-Fisherman your way into a strong economy early.

* Cards that allow you to take cards from your discard pile (Settlers/Bustling Village, Harbinger, Mountain Village)
Attacks tend to be more powerful on a Fisherman board as both junkers and Militia attacks force cards into your discard pile, causing defensive cards to be more valued on a Fisherman board if they exist. These include:

* Blockers (Moat, Lighthouse, Guardian)
Notable Interaction: Watchtower

Watchtower's synergy with Fisherman is twofold. Not only does it allow you to gain multiple Fishermen onto your deck with +Buy/Workshop variants, but against junkers you can immediately trash any junk you get to keep your discard pile empty for more Fishermen.

Having cards in your discard isn't the end of the world with Fisherman. Sometimes you can even use the increased cost to your own benefit. The rare few cards that allow you to trash and gain up to $3 more are obviously good with Fisherman despite not being commonly used. Gaining up to $1 more can still be useful (trashing an initial $2 purchase into a Gold is great, especially if you can then trash that Gold into a Province) but it's more situational. Cards that work well with this include:

* $3 Remodels (Graverobber, Expand)
* $1 Remodels (Upgrade, Transmogrify, WotButterfly)
* Downgraders (Stonemason, Dismantle, War)
Notable Interaction: Develop

Develop pairs incredibly well with Fisherman if there's a good 4-cost on the board. If your discard pile is empty, you can trash a Silver for both a Fisherman and a 4-cost onto your deck. If it isn't, you can take advantage of the cost increase to trash it for a 4-cost and a Gold (or other 6-cost) onto your deck. Since the cards are gained onto your deck, if you trashed a Silver this way, you're still able to buy a Fisherman for $2.

Notable Interaction: Save

Save is useful both in the opening and later in the game with Fisherman. If you open 4-3, you can buy Save, save a Copper, buy a Fisherman, and get a 4-cost next turn. Later in the game, if you have extra $ to spend and no +Buy, you can Save an extra treasure and buy a Fisherman for $2, giving your next hand a boost in coin.

Notable Interaction: Butcher

Wanna trash an Estate into Fisherman with an empty discard? Butcher gives you double Coffers for doing so. Wanna trash Fisherman itself into a Province? If you have a spare Coffers, go for it. If you don't, you can still take a Gold (or other valued 6-cost like Hireling) in its place and get a Coffers for your trouble. Butcher's flexibility pairs well with Fisherman's need for flexibility to reach its full potential.

You don't necessarily have to gain cards while trashing Fisherman for it to still be worth trashing it for benefit. Various cards give benefits per coin a card costs, heavily upscaling your initial purchase. Cards that can trash Fisherman for benefit include:

* +Vanilla Bonus (Apprentice, Research, Salvager)
* Weird Trash for Benefit (Trader, Scrap)

As Fisherman relies on having an empty discard pile to be gained in multiples anything that puts cards into your discard lets you gain it less. This ends up being a lot of cards due to both sifters and most attacks putting cards into your discard pile before your Buy phase. It's still possible to gain Fisherman for $2 on boards with these cards, but the difficulty's obviously increased. Cards that antisynergize with Fisherman include:

* Discard attacks (Militia, Minion, Goons, Urchin/Mercenary)
* Junkers (Witch, Mountebank, Cultist)
* Draw-first Sifters (Warehouse, Embassy, Inn)
* Diggers (Golem, Venture, Rebuild)
Discard for draw sifters (Cellar, Storeroom*) are lightly antisynergetic with Fisherman. Though they can put cards in your discard pile, due to them drawing second they can also force you to reshuffle your deck, emptying your discard pile. This can put bad cards in your deck but also allows you to reduce the cost back to $2.

It's not always the case that these cards are bad. Some cards prefer Fisherman at its $5 price point (Remodelers, Patrician) while others like it better at $2 (Seer, Will-O-Wisp). Fisherman having a flexible cost allows you to get use from both price points on the same board, though it has a chance of being at the price point you don't want at any given point. Check which cards care about other cards' cost on any Fisherman board.

Notable Antisynergy - Big Money/Draw

Fisherman prefers Action-heavy decks that draw themselves a lot. As it's hand-neutral it barely impacts decks that draw themselves easily. However, with Big Money-Smithy/Witch variant decks wanting as few actions as possible it's more likely on BM/Draw boards for Fisherman to be drawn dead. Boards with Fisherman where this is the optimal strategy are becoming increasingly rare, but it's possible for one to show up.

General Gameplay

It's obvious that you want to get Fisherman as much as you can at its $2 price point. How exactly you go about that is going to vary between boards (topdecking, forcing shuffles, etc.) Opening Fisherman on 2/5 or 3/4 hands is normally the optimal play, though good 2-3 costs (Chapel, Page/Peasant, Ambassador, Masquerade) can make you reconsider buying it. It tends to be better to buy Fisherman than a 4-cost but this varies based on the board. +Buy helps Fisherman out a lot, allowing you to get it and another card if you would've had $2 to spare. Don't feel forced to buy Fisherman just because it costs $2, especially if there's better 2-4 costs (Tournament notably competes with Fisherman on 4 hands). Cantrip coin is a good card, but there's lots of cards in the game that are just better than it for various reasons. On weak boards of boards or boards with plentiful +Buy/gain where a $2 Fisherman can be gained easily, Fisherman tends to be great. Fisherman tends to be worth $4, get it lower and it's great, get it higher and you might be losing out.

Don't be afraid to buy Fisherman for $5. Whether you can threepile end the game, want to shut your opponent out of Fishermen, or just got dealt a board with weak $5s and $4s, $5 Fisherman is still a viable option a lot of the time.


Fisherman feels like an easy card to play at first glance (just cantrip coin up your economy) but there's a lot more you can do with it than meets the eye. Its flexible cost can be manipulated by high level players for whatever benefit the card can give ignoring its cost, though it doesn't need that high level of gameplay to still be useful to you. Fisherman might be a card you overlook and only get when you notice it costs $2, but I hope this analysis has made you consider not just gaining it whenever it's available for $2 and doing more with it than just playing it.

Fisherman is a deceptively weird card. Use its weirdness to your advantage.


This was a personal challenge to me to try and analyze a card in good detail. As I'm only a 48-levelled player, take anything I say with a grain of salt. If you have something to add or something I claimed here you want to challenge, please leave it down below.

The bigger things to consider with Fisherman:

1. It skews the openings. 2/5 is wildly better than 5/2. As likewise you want 3/4 and not 4/3. Additionally Fisherman is +$1.7 on average for starting so you generally want to open it and a power 4 if possible.
2. It displaces a lot of early silver buys. Say your deck is going to be something like Iw/Hgrounds/Village. You clearly need cash to hit $6, but without trashing it might take a bit to get the engine running. Fisherman makes it a lot easier to bootstrap to expensive engines without (much) silver.
3. Its real synergy with the Remodel family is taking copper -> Fisherman. Yeah Butcher is the best of the lot due to flexibility, but being able to get good use out of a Remodel is worth a lot, particularly when it is the only trasher.
4. Top decking during the Buy phase is less than it is cracked up to be. $4 and 2 buys without nothing in discard is grand and all ... but terrible if the discard is nonetheless not empty. And once you get to $5 we are typically talking about forgoing a $5 for two Peddlers.
5. It provides some late game alternatives to Silver and Estate. Particularly when you have a faltering engine, a $2 peddler can increase your chances of (double) provinces enough to easily beat out silver or estate. And also tends to speed 3-piles by being a commonly bought pile with a low cost.


--- Quote from: jomini on September 12, 2022, 10:58:27 pm ---The bigger things to consider with Fisherman:

1. It skews the openings. 2/5 is wildly better than 5/2. As likewise you want 3/4 and not 4/3.

--- End quote ---

Thanks, I'll remember to consider this the next time I'm choosing what opening split to get in a Fisherman game.


--- Quote from: Awaclus on September 12, 2022, 11:23:31 pm ---
--- Quote from: jomini on September 12, 2022, 10:58:27 pm ---The bigger things to consider with Fisherman:

1. It skews the openings. 2/5 is wildly better than 5/2. As likewise you want 3/4 and not 4/3.

--- End quote ---

Thanks, I'll remember to consider this the next time I'm choosing what opening split to get in a Fisherman game.

--- End quote ---
More, the important thing is how does it skew your opening decisions. E.g. do you really want to compete with your opponent on a Peddler rush if they get a $2/5 and you get a $5/2 on a Market/Save board? Odds are, they will win the Peddler split something like 7:3. What is a viable strategy for you changes very heavily based on what your opponent gets. Sometimes the best option is to mirror and hope for the luck to equal out next shuffle. Sometimes you want to go for a strategy that has a lower expectation value, but a higher variance to increase your overall win chances.

Your mileage will obviously vary by board, but the trickiest decision I find with Fisherman is when do I open $4/Silver and when do I open Fisherman/$3. And which one of these wins out is heavily dependent on what my opponent manages if I am P2. Keeping in mind that Dominion is not a solitaire game and how Fisherman creates more asymmetry seems to work for me.


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