Tactician highlights the general Dominion principle that one good thing is usually better than two mediocre things. There are two very different ways to play Tactician: Single Tactician, which is how you’d normally think of the card, and Double Tactician, a more advanced technique that sacrifices the ability to play Treasure in exchange for a ten-card hand every turn.
Tactician is an easy solution to two big Dominion problems:
- Putting two pieces of a combo together. Your Tournament doesn’t always find Province, and your King’s Court doesn’t always meet a good Action to play it with. Tactician doesn’t technically “solve” this problem, but it sure makes it a lot easier to link up combo pieces. Use Tactician to backdoor into a Treasure Map activation, or play multiple Barons a turn, or connect your Fool’s Golds: all things that are much easier to do when you have 10 cards to work with instead of just 5.
- Exploiting cards whose power increases proportionally with handsize. Coppersmith isn’t going to get many Coppers to work with in a 5-card hand, but fares much better in a 10-card hand. Forge gets to trash a ton of cards at once, instead of one or two at a time. Crossroads can draw a lot more cards even if your deck doesn’t have that many green cards in it. Bank grows tremendously in power (and gets the +Buy it so desperately needs). Vault/Secret Chamber have more to discard. Cellar and Warehouse get a lot better when you have more choice.
These two considerations usually mean that the turn skipped by Tactician is worth it. As a bonus, Tactician is a nice counter to most attacks. Ghost Ship and Militia are mostly nullified; Witch is still a must-buy, but her Curses are a lot easier to deal with when you’re working with 10 cards instead of 5.
Generally speaking, you won’t want more than one Tactician in your deck (perhaps a second one if your deck is very large). You don’t usually want to play a Tactician on your Tactician turn, because then you’re really going for Double Tactician (see below). Occasionally, you see some “mega-turn” decks that repeatedly play Tactician until they can finally draw what they need: building for Throne Room x4 / Bridge x4 is a good example.
Tactician is worst when you have very strong trashing and/or deck draw. If you can draw your whole deck, or almost all of it, every turn already, then there’s no point to skipping a turn to have a not-that-much-better second turn. Likewise, any card that depends on having something in your discard or deck does not fare well when your whole deck is in your hand: Philosopher’s Stone loses $1 automatically, and Loan, Venture, Golem, and Adventurer aren’t benefited by a large hand (and in fact are usually hurt). (A side note on Golem: although it’s possible to use it to get multiple Tacticians in play, for up to +50 Cards/+10 Actions/+10 Buys the next turn, in practice Golem simply does not work with Tactician.)
Playing a Tactician on your Tactician turn will ensure that you draw another ten cards next turn, but it means that you’re discarding all of your Treasure cards during the Action phase, before you can play them for money.*
* Black Market/Tactician, of course, being the giant, gaping loophole exception to this statement. It technically counts as a Double Tactician engine, but is sufficiently different from most Double Tactician engines that I’ll just mention it here and move on.
In your average deck, not being able to play Treasures is kind of a big deal. But double-Tac, almost by definition, gets around this by earning money from Actions rather than Treasure. The goal is to play a bunch of Actions for a lot of money, Tactician away the rest of your hand, buy a Province/Colony, and hope to be able to repeat this every turn for the rest of the game.
Naturally, what kinds of Actions you can play is limited by the number of Actions you can play. Tactician gives you an extra Action, but you still need an Action in the end to play the second Tactician. So you have three options:
- Get tons of cantrip money, via Peddler, Market, Bazaar, etc. Conspirator needs a little help along the way but can be a cheap pseudo-Grand Market.
- Get tons of terminal money but have enough Actions to play them all. This is most easily done with Fishing Village, but can also be replicated with other Villages or King’s Court. (Note that Bazaar qualifies for both this and cantrip money.) Merchant Ship is one of the best sources of terminal money since it persists to next turn. Baron is quite nice, since it gives you +$4 per Action.
- Get all the money you need from a single Action, via Vault or Secret Chamber (or Black Market/Tactician, as mentioned above). Secret Chamber needs a little help: in a 10-card hand, the Secret Chamber has 9 cards to discard, but has to save at least two of them (the Tactician, and at least one card for the Tactician to discard), meaning it can only generate $7 at most. Vault doesn’t need any help in a Province game, since it’ll draw up to 11 cards and be able to discard 9 of them for money. Both will require some assistance in a Colony game.
Some things to keep in mind as you build this engine:
- It is absolutely critical for this engine to keep drawing that second Tactician. Without the consistent Tactician every turn, you can’t find all your Actions or that other Tactician, and it’ll cost you multiple turns for you to start the chain again. And as you start to green, the chance that you miss that second Tactician grows.
- So a sifter like Warehouse or Cellar is a fantastic addition to the engine, and Scheme just eliminates the problem altogether. Otherwise, you need to be mindful that you’re building in such a way that can handle adding green cards to the deck (Crossroads is a great example, as is using Haggler to buy Province + engine part).
- Like all engines, this takes a while to set up, and if you aren’t efficient, you might get outraced (especially since your opponent has access to Tactician). This game is a good example of how building the double-Tac engine too slowly means I get outraced to the Provinces.
- It’s a waste to spend extra turns building up your money to a level you don’t need. Ideally you will hit $8 or $11 exactly each turn; of course, more money is nice, but not if it costs you a turn in setting it up!
- Adding an attack or cards that give VP is almost a given, because you’ll able to play them every single turn. Goons, of course, will do both and give you +$2.
- Some trashing often benefits this engine: it helps you set the engine up faster, and the key advantage of this deck is long-term consistency, one of the big weaknesses of a Chapel-thinned deck.
- Outpost gives you even more opportunities: depending on the set, you might be able to have your Tactician trigger on your Outpost turn instead of your Tactician turn (thus allowing you to double-Tac without having to sacrifice your Treasures), or even go for the rare triple-Tac (where you get a Tactician benefit on your Outpost turns too).
- No matter what, don’t forget: always leave at least one card for the Tactician to discard! It is always quite embarrassing to play Tactician with an empty hand and realize too late that there is no benefit to doing so…
As with most engines, double-Tac can be beaten in very fast sets (e.g., Governor, which can seriously slow you down by force-feeding you Silvers) and sets with Cursers, which will clog up your deck too much to reliably trigger the double-Tac.
Some sample Double Tactician games:
- barely beating single Tactician
- Conspirator/Grand Market focused
- using Spice Merchant and Vault
- an archetypal Black Market/Tactician example, with Crossroads support
- All cards that benefit from big hands: Warehouse, Bank, Crossroads, Forge, Coppersmith, Vault, etc.
- All cards that depend on hitting some other card: King’s Court, Fool’s Gold, Baron, Tournament, Treasure Map, etc.
- Mega-turn decks
- Black Market
- Double-Tactician requires Actions that produce +Coin and benefits from +VP cards
- Opponents’ handsize attacks
- Decks where you can easily draw the whole deck without Tactician’s help
- Diggers, or cards that depend on your deck/discard: Venture, Golem, Adventurer, Philosopher’s Stone
- Possession (requires you to keep track of where your opponent’s Possession(s) are, and when it is “safe” to Tactician)
- Double-Tactician conflicts with Cursers