Dominion: Woodcutter

Woodcutter

Dominion

Woodcutter is the most niche card in the base set.  Its +Buy can be critical if (and this is a big if) you can make use of it and no superior alternatives exist.  But with one major exception, Woodcutter almost always ends up being the least-bought Action on the table.

The value of +Buy is often underrated; in evenly-matched 2-player games, having an extra Buy gives you an important tactical edge.  Even if you can’t afford to double-Province, the ability to buy the last Province with an additional Estate forces your opponent to hesitate before buying the penultimate Province; your ability to squeeze in an extra Victory card can mean the difference in an otherwise symmetrical game.  Alternatively, extra Buys are important to soak up free Peddlers if they are available, or to make use of Hoard‘s Gold-gaining ability.  (Note that Goons and Bridge strategies do not want Woodcutters, since more terminal Actions just means fewer Goons or Bridges getting played.)

The problem is that Woodcutter is pretty much the worst card possible for getting this Buy. By the time you’re in a position to need extra Buys, you almost certainly have the money to afford one of the far superior sources of +Buy: Festival, Goons, Market, Salvager, Wharf.  Even Baron, Contraband, and Trade Route at least serve useful early game purposes; unlike all the other sources of +Buy, Woodcutter is just never worthwhile outside of its +Buy.  Accordingly, Woodcutter is strictly a last resort, a source of +Buy if nothing better is available.  (If you do conclude that you’ll need its Buy, then it’s probably better to buy it earlier rather than later, so you don’t have to look foolish spending $8 on a Woodcutter.)

This is assuming, of course, that extra Buys are useful enough to justify spending an Action on.  If they aren’t (for instance, in low-quality or Action-poor decks), then buying Woodcutter is simply a mistake.  Although there are certain decks that make use of money-providing Actions (e.g., a double Tactician deck that King’s Courts Actions for money before discarding for Tactician every turn, or a deck crammed with Villages and defending against Pirate Ships), Woodcutter is (again) usually the least helpful of the cheap Actions that give +$2 (e.g., Swindler, Chancellor, Steward, Militia).

However, there is one situation where Woodcutter absolutely shines: when Gardens are available.  Along with Workshop, Woodcutter is one of the two trigger cards for a Gardens strategy; although it doesn’t guarantee a Gardens like Workshop does, it allows you to grab Duchies to compensate.  In a head-to-head battle, Workshop-Gardens is probably slightly superior to Woodcutter-Gardens, but either of them dominates “normal” decks by ending the game on piles before the opponent can get his engine humming.

Works with:

  • Gardens
  • Peddler, Hoard, and other decks that call for +Buy if there are no better alternatives
  • Decks that need money-providing Actions and the lack of any other alternatives

Conflicts with:

  • Any other source of +Buy
  • A lack of need for +Buy
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10 Responses to Dominion: Woodcutter

  1. Reyk says:

    I agree, that the card usually is bad. But anyway want to add two things in favor:
    Woodcutter is one of the very few plus buy cards that can be combined at the beginning with potion (3-4 split). This might be useful in certain setups with relatively cheap good cards like Apothecary.

    “unlike all the other sources of +Buy, Woodcutter is just never worthwhile outside of its +Buy”

    It provides virtual money. This might be a plus in thief heavy multiplayer games – but than again, probably only if it’s the only source of virtual money.

  2. joel88s says:

    I wonder, could you recommend a link for a discussion of the basic Gardens strategy? Haven’t been able to find one on BGG…

    Thanks!

  3. Pawn is simply better. End of story.

    • WanderingWinder says:

      No. Woodcutter is often better, simply because it gives you an extra $1 that pawn can’t give you. Pawn is sometimes better, but when it is, you aren’t usually having it do the same thing.

    • Alex Zorach says:

      I think pawn is a more flexible card and is probably better in an overwhelming majority of cases. But there’s no way to get +$2 and +1 buy out of a pawn, so in those rare cases where you don’t care about pawn’s other options, I could see woodcutter being superior. These cases may be rare, but I think the point of Dominion is that there are very few hard and fast rules about cards being universally superior or inferior.

  4. Alex Zorach says:

    I’ve sometimes ended up with games with an abundance of +Actions. Usually Fishing Village is the cause of this, but other cards, like Pawn, can help preserve actions as well. This may be a sign that I’ve over-bought +Action cards, but I’m wondering if woodcutter could be perhaps a little bit more useful in the circumstances where actions are not in short supply. In a game without many good actions, and with many good sources of +Actions (like Fishing Village), Woodcutter may look more attractive as well, even if +Buy isn’t the highest priority.

    I can also imagine that an abundance of good cheap actions and a lack of good higher-priced actions may make Woodcutter more attractive. I can imagine it might also be the case for games with combos involving $2-4 cards that are good to buy in quantity. Many of the cards that provide +Buy are more expensive, so I could imagine that the fact that this is a cheap card offering +Buy could be an advantage in games where you want to quickly set up some sort of combo involving low-cost cards. Or is this too speculative? I’m not the most experienced player so I don’t know if this would be a good strategy.

    • WheresMyElephant says:

      All this is pretty accurate, and much of it can be generalized to other +Buy sources, other terminal Silvers, and pseudo-+Buy like Workshops.

      Another time terminal Silver can be nice is in engines based on things like Watchtower or Library. Getting it out of your hand allows those cards to draw an extra card, making Woodcutter as good as a Grand Market! (Well, close anyway; as long as you aren’t worried about running out of actions). Similarly for Minion, which likes all forms of Action-based coin.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I can’t get Woodcutter/Gardens to work in sim. The Workshop/Gardens bot included with Geronimoo’s simulator crushes Smithy, but when I swap in Woodcutter for the Workshop everywhere, Smithy wins 82% of the games. I tried fidgeting with some of the constants, but to no avail. Throwing in villages also didn’t do it for me. Does anyone have a good Woodcutter/Gardens bot?

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