Intrigue: Minion

Minion

Dominion: Intrigue

Minion is one of those game-warping cards, whose presence greatly changes the strategic landscape.  Though not necessarily a must-buy, its availability forces players to either buy it or give serious thought to how to respond to it.

Strengths

Minion’s primary strength comes from its glorious self-synergy.  Like Caravan/Laboratory/Nobles, Minion is a card whose best complement is itself.  But Minion one-ups those cards: handsize increasers need to pause every so often to pick up Treasures, but Minion is its own source of cash.  When full-on into Minion mode, you should not need to stop buying Minions to get pesky Treasures like Gold that you’ll just end up discarding anyway.

Minion works very well with cheap non-terminal actions: e.g., Pawn, Conspirator, Fishing Village.  Pawn is especially valuable to the Minion player because it allows a +Buy, something often missing from many high-money engines.  The key is to avoid buying cards that will likely be discarded to the Minion anyway: this rules out Treasure as well as most terminal Actions.  One—or at most two—is acceptable if it’s an important terminal Action, like Mountebank or Goons.  (Or a Remodel/Expand, since you’ll probably need one to get rid of your initial Chapel/other trashing card.)  Any more and it’s just a waste, even with +Actions.

Minion’s attack is also a good thing.  Sometimes it benefits your opponents, but on average, you’d always prefer your opponents to have 4 cards than 5.  The exception is Library/Watchtower, and of course, other Minion decks, which respond to Minion quite well.

Weaknesses

Minion is much less effective when you can’t get rid of non-Minion cards.  Without good trashing options, it’s much harder to hit that critical mass of 25% Minion density in your deck. Accordingly, the best way to counter Minions (other than your own Minions) is to load them down with Curses.  Swindler is a good choice too, since you are likely to hit a Minion, which are conveniently priced to be Swindled into Duchies (or even better, Dukes).

Handsize-increasing cards like Caravan are a tossup.  If your Minion strategy is meant as a hybrid, some Minion/some Treasure, then they aren’t very helpful since you’ll just find yourself discarding more cards to the Minion.  But if your deck is hardcore Minion, then Caravans will just give you more Minions.  (Though you definitely shouldn’t be buying Laboratory or other $5 Actions if more Minions are still available to purchase.)

As part of a hybrid strategy, Minion can work pretty well with Tactician and Library because of its ability to provide “invisible money”.  And its discard/attack power is a good defensive response to Goons/Militia and other Minions.

Minion doesn’t play well with most combos, however.  This is because your hand is so often going to be cut in size that you can’t afford the luxury of chaining together complex Action chains without buying them en masse, which of course, defeats the whole purpose of going Minions.

Miscellaneous

Minion players commonly face dilemmas early in the game.  Should I discard my hand, drawing 4 and possibly missing out on $5 to get another all-important Minion?  Or should I forsake the attack against my opponents?  The answer is probably dependent on what kind of deck; if you and your opponents have been Chapeling into a thin, high-density deck, then your discard is likely to both hurt your opponents significantly as well as getting you to $5.

Special note regarding Throne Room and King’s Court: if you Throne Room a Minion, planning to both take $2 and discard, you should always discard first.  This is because if you discard and draw 4 terrible cards, you have a choice of discarding or taking $2.  Taking the $2 first prevents you from being able to make this decision.

On a side note: as powerful as this card is, I can’t get over its non-thematicness.  What do Minions have to do with discarding and drawing?  Wouldn’t your Goons and Militia be considered your Minions already?  Even the picture doesn’t make any sense.

Works with:

  • Other Minions!
  • Pawn, Festival
  • Conspirator/Fishing Village/Warehouse/other cheap non-terminal actions
  • Library/Watchtower
  • Tactician
  • Outpost, as Minion is likely able to salvage an otherwise poor hand (sample game)
  • Opponents’ handsize-decreasing attacks
  • Opponents with trimmed decks, since the discard-5-draw-4 power will be more likely to hurt

Conflicts with:

  • Opponents’ Curse-giving attacks
  • Opponents’ Swindlers
  • Lack of good trashing to thin your deck
  • Handsize increasers (usually)
  • Treasure and Treasure-oriented cards, like Mine
  • Terminal actions in general
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31 Responses to Intrigue: Minion

  1. Cthulhu's Snack says:

    Minion, for me, is one of those cards like Fishing Village that I almost always base my deck around when it’s on the board except in extreme circumstances. I agree with most of what you wrote, but I don’t think that curse-giving attacks are much of an issue. With Torturer, you can just make sure to keep a Minion and get a new hand. With Witch and Familiar, it takes a good 15 turns to give away all of the curses, by which time a minion deck should have enough minions to draw it in almost every hand. Got a hand with some curses in it? Toss it away for four more cards. I’d dare say that Minion is better for curses than most + card cards because you cycle through the deck faster.

  2. rrenaud says:

    Here is a game where I go Familiars before Minion, and my opponent goes Minion first (he buys 2 Minions before I have any Minions), and he loses big.

    http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201011/22/game-20101122-195522-9faab646.html.gz

  3. Jahz says:

    In the “Works with” section, we clearly miss festival (once minion pile is depleted) !

    • Reyk says:

      Yes, Festival is probably the best support.
      Cellar/Warehouse are very good too, if you can’t trash. Cause handsize isn’t an issue.
      By the way: Minion’s strength depends a lot on the number of players, because Minion’s best friend is Minion as you wrote.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have had great success in overcoming some of the obstacles he mentions above in using terminal action cards by pairing up my hand with nobles and minions. The plus actions from the nobles, or the plus three cards depending on how many nobles I have previously played, allow me to use other action cards I normally would just discard and bring more minions into my hand to pair up with minions that I had hopefully drawn before.

  4. Alenia says:

    I agree with the person who said secret chambers. If there’s a minion game with a +2 actions card and some extra buys like worker’s village or festival, you can secret chamber away all your victory cards and the money cards that may still be hanging around in your deck before you grab a new hand.

    • Alenia says:

      Ah just realized nobody else said secret chambers. Well, I say they work with them.

      • rrenaud says:

        Do you think it’s that Secret Chambers work that great with the Minion? Secret Chamber for it’s reaction effect can work pretty well against the Minion, letting you stash away your good cards for your new 4 card hand, an dumping the weak cards in the discard.

        But Secret Chamber is a terminal. It requires requires a +Action to use the Secret Chamber and not break your Minion chain, and in the best case the Secret Chamber itself that is going to produce at most $2 in a continued Minion chain, and even less if you actually draw it with a pair of Minions, or other while action card.

        Every Secret Chamber in your deck is one card that makes your Minion chain slightly less likely to pull itself together. In some sense, it’s kind of unwanted deck bloat. I could see myself buying one or two Secret Chambers early game on a $2 or possibly $3 turn to counter my opponents Minions, but loading up on them would be really counter productive, in my opinion.

      • Alenia says:

        rrenaud– I know that it doesn’t make sense to bloat secret chambers, but I think that in a game with minions and +action cards, if you happen to grab one or two it’s nice to be able to discard everything for money before you grab a new hand. Also the reaction helps you get more minions into each hand if your opponents are also playing the same strategy, so in that sense I think they work well enough to want to get a couple, obviously you never want to load up on terminals.

  5. bearhugs says:

    The Minion makes all the thematic sense in the world. Minions, by definition, do what their master tells them to; the choice of +2 money or attack lets you instruct your minion to your bidding. The picture of the minion’s master in the background is great, enforcing this idea of relentless servitude.

    Goons are necessarily hired thugs (making them a great fit for prosperity) while the word “minion” doesn’t really imply a specific motive for their service.

    • Reyk says:

      Yes, there is a thematic line for all the choose-from-cards in Intrigue. Increasing costs, increasing hierarchy with nobles nearest to the king:
      Pawn
      Steward
      Minion
      Nobles

      btw: The pawn is “Handlanger” in the german edition. I don’t know what’s the best re-translation: dogsbody, handyman, gofer?!

      • Shanty Conspiracy says:

        “Dogsbody” isn’t really a word in US English AFAIK, or at least I’m not familiar with it. “Handyman” is a false cognate; it sounds like someone who is “handy” to have around, but it really just means someone who’s good at fixing things that break in homes and small offices. “Gofer” is the closest; “point man” is also workable (from a basketball analogy widely used in the US), but both of these words imply a certain level of organizational skill that sets one individual apart from others, while “pawn” implies one person in a large organization whose leader considers them all interchangeable and expendable.

    • Ryan says:

      Moreover, it seems very thematic to me if you have to play a Minion and discard your hand as your first action. You left your minion to handle this turn (while you went off to war against the other players, I suppose, if we stretch the analogy). Naturally he’s not as effective a leader as you, so he only gets a four-card hand. When you stay in command, he’s just another lackey, worth about as much to you as a steward or woodcutter.

  6. axle says:

    Minions are fine with plus actions and terminal actions. You just need the right ratios. If you can get some villages (any kind) you can minion until you reach one of them, play a terminal action once you get to it, etc. The terminal action you choose need to be worth the added size of your deck, but minions do not need to be the only card at the center of your deck.

    • Axxle says:

      Hey, you trying to steal my name? Lol. I agree with you though. I guess you should mention that the teminal action probably shouldn’t be +cards only since the only thing that accomplishes is *maybe* getting another minion, whereas a terminal action that actually does something to either hinder the opponent or give you +$ or +buys is more beneficial.

  7. Hoff says:

    You didn’t mention an important benefit of Throne Room and King’s Court with Minion: you actually net +1/+2 actions! This really opens up an opportunity for terminal actions in your Minion chain. (Salvager being my favorite — thins your deck, offers +1 buy, *and* can add “invisible money” across Minions!)

  8. Jack Rudd says:

    I just had a game on Isotropic where the tableau included these cards:

    Chapel
    University
    Minion
    City
    Peddler

    …and I thought “what if I open Chapel/Potion, get an early University, and then trash all my starting cards – I can easily get all the coin I need with Minions.”

    And it succeeded.

    Oh boy, it succeeded.

    Once the Minions were gone, the Cities followed in fairly short order. The game ended with my having captured 7 of the 8 Provinces, with the three empty piles being City, Minion and Peddler.

    • vidicate says:

      Damn, son!

      3-pile ending AND 7/8 Provinces as the first player on your 13th turn. These are the moments we remember, right?

  9. Meej says:

    Saw an interesting new twist on Minion combos last night – +Actions and Black Market. The BM’s not only are their own “invisible money,” they let you play out the coins in your hand before you ditch your hand to the next Minion.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Minion is especially good against Ghost Ship. If your opponent plays the Ghost Ship against you, you keep one Minion and two junk cards in your hand, and you put your two best cards (apart from the minion) on top of your deck. Then when it’s your turn, you use the Minion to discard the two junk cards, and draw four cards. You will have your two best cards plus another two cards. Your opponent’s Ghost Ship will often help you to get a better hand.

  11. Throckmorton says:

    I’m new to the game and would like some clarification. Thanks to anyone who replies…

    What is in my deck if I’m playing “full-on minion mode” and I’m at the midgame where I want to start buying provinces? What treasures would I have if I’m smart? None? This information would help this beginner finally beat his teenage son…

    • theory says:

      Ideally, yes, none. Treasures aren’t doing anything for you: they are often being discarded to your Minions, and they get in the way of you drawing more Minions. In general in a Minion deck the Minions are the key, and you want them to be as high a proportion of your deck as possible.

      Cards like Market are better than Treasure because they won’t stop you from drawing a Minion; they replace themselves and don’t cost Actions.

      • Throckmorton says:

        Well, my son and I set up a random game and there was minion and great hall. Wow do they work great together. He emptied one pile following his strategy, while I swiped up all the Great Halls and minions. Three piles gone, and me on top due to Great Halls. I finally beat my son, but I feel like a cheating bad dad since I got the idea from here. But I’ll get over that.

  12. Dan says:

    Here is an example game of what NOT to do against Minion. Unrated opponent.

    http://councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20120310-201215-1aba76e0.html

    15 Gold < 10 Minion.

  13. Jelte says:

    Today I played Minion with Grand Market. Very nice combo! I bought about 2 Colonies a turn.
    I used a single Steward to clean my deck and start the combo.

  14. J. Neher says:

    Do you play the 4 cards immediately when you play Minion and choose the second option– discard + 4 cards? Or are those 4 cards added to your next turn?

    • vidicate says:

      What?
      You discard all other cards in your hand and draw 4 new cards from your deck immediately, and continue your turn. All opponents who have 5 or more cards in their hand do the same.

  15. ackmondual says:

    I do enjoy the following irony… someone who plays Minion and forces others to discard will wipe away a pretty good hand. Now instead of a good hand, I have a Minion and 3 lousy cards. Guess what I’m going to do? :D

  16. Brown Jenkin says:

    Horse Traders is a good counter against the attack portion of the card, since setting it aside reduces your handsize to four cards instead of five. Found this out to my dismay a few games ago

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