Shepherd

This article was written by Puzzle Box in collaboration with the Dominion Strategy blog team.

When things line up well, Shepherd is an extremely potent card. Turning your least useful cards into draw is excellent, and Shepherd’s ability to do so is limited only by the number of Victory cards it can manage to connect with. This, however, can turn out to be quite a large limitation, since without one another the Victory cards and the Shepherds will typically do nothing at all. Shepherd typically plays out according to one of two patterns, each of which will be discussed here: Shepherd-As-Sifter and Shepherd-As-Primary-Draw. The latter will be explored in greater depth, as it is complex and unlike the pattern of any other card in Dominion.

Shepherd as Sifter

In this mode, you have Victory cards in your deck for for some reason other than Shepherd, and you’re adding a Shepherd or two to sift past them. Shepherd only needs to collide with a single Victory card to be card-neutral, so the bar for it to be an effective sifter is not particularly high. Any time you expect a Shepherd you add to see one or more Victory cards on average, this is an option worth considering. Decks that non-terminally increase their hand size are typically the ones where this is most appealing, since doing so is a great way to help ensure that Shepherd lines up with the Victory cards you want to sift past.

Typical situations where you might use Shepherd this way include boards where Estate trashing is difficult or impossible but you still want to play a fairly controlled deck (in which case adding Shepherd early is likely wise), and any board where you play a controlled deck that is scoring by buying Victory cards (like Province or Colony) over the course of multiple turns (in which case adding Shepherd as you begin to score may be wise). There are also some occasions where sifting past Estates in the early game is so valuable that it’s worthwhile to add a Shepherd even if you will trash your Estates after a bit of time–for example, some games where quickly activating Magic Lamp is your highest priority.

Shepherd as Primary Draw

Without a doubt, it is tricker to use Shepherd as your primary draw. Here, you are not simply using Shepherd to deal with Victory cards you already have, but rather buying Victory cards specifically for the purpose of pairing with Shepherd. There is great potential here–Shepherd alone promises the possibility of drawing your entire deck, and Pasture provides an extra wellspring of points to extend the game, buying you the time to capitalize on this. However, be warned! Without the support of other kingdom cards, this strategy is extremely inconsistent. Shepherd needs to be paired with 2+ Victory cards to increase your hand size at all, and you will need to make such a pairing multiple times during each turn to have hope of drawing your entire deck. There are a few different elements that are especially valuable for supporting this strategy:

Support

Copper Trashing

Non-Victory stop cards are a huge liability to decks that use Shepherd as their primary  draw. As such, the ability to trash coppers is very important to making them function. As usual, faster is better for this (a copper trasher as weak as Develop may not be sufficient, depending of course on context), though note that Remodel variants are much better than usual as copper trashers here, since Estate is actually a valuable card.

Start of Turn Draw and Sifting

Drawing and sifting at the start of your turn are great boons to your consistency, and this is as true as it’s ever been with Shepherd. Cards like Wharf, Den of Sin, and Dungeon are massive boons to a Shepherd-based deck.

Topdecking

The ability to topdeck cards is much, much better for Shepherd than it may appear at first glance. Once a Shepherd deck has nearly drawn itself, it’s typically capable of topdecking a number of Victory cards by discarding enough of them to trigger a reshuffle, but not enough to completely draw what has been discarded. For example, with 4 cards left in your deck and an empty discard, discarding 3 Victory cards to a Shepherd will topdeck two of them. As a result of this, having an extra Shepherd and topdecking it with something like Mandarin, Count (who can also gain Duchies while doing it!), or even an opposing Haunted Woods is enough to essentially guarantee the consistency of a Shepherd deck.

Payload

Density

Since Shepherd is so averse to non-Victory stop cards, high-density payload is at a premium. Silvers are worse than usual, powerful actions are even better.

Discard-for-benefit

More notably, since a Shepherd deck that is barely consistent at the start of its turn will massively overdraw at the end, Shepherd has a strong affinity for discard-for-benefit types of effects. The likes of Artificer and Vault are a big pull towards a Shepherd-based deck.

Megaturn Potential

Finally, if there’s no other way to deliver it, megaturn potential can sometimes be a pull towards a Shepherd deck that would otherwise be too inconsistent. It’s not so bad to have a few bad turns if one good turn means you win!

Scoring

Because Victory cards are an integral part of your deck, you will eventually reach a point where scoring actually improves your deck! Being able to fearlessly engage in extended greening without too much regard for which Victory cards you add is fantastic.

Weaknesses

Junking

For the same reasons that copper trashing is important, if an opponent can junk your deck faster than you can remove it, drawing your deck with Shepherd is likely impossible.

Handsize Attacks

Discard attacks and -Card tokens are very bad news for Shepherd. It is most vulnerable to dudding at the start of its turn when your hand size is smallest, and these all accentuate that weakness. Start-of-turn draw can potentially bypass this weakness, but without that kind of support, you should not build a Shepherd-based deck in the face of these.

In Summary

  • Shepherd can play either as an unassuming sifter or a highly fragile but potent source of draw.
  • Add it as a sifter if you will have Victory cards in your deck anyways and it will typically see one or more of them.
  • Using it as primary draw requires full commitment, a high percent of Victory cards, trashing of your other junk, and either powerful payload or additional consistency support. Topdecking effects are fantastic. Attacks on your hand are devastating to it.
  • When you can use it as primary draw, discard-for-benefit is a major pull.
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Recruiter

This post was written by Seprix with a little help from the Dominion Strategy blog team. We’ll be publishing more overviews of Renaissance cards over the coming months; if you’d like to contribute, check out the Articles section of the Dominion Strategy Forums.

Recruiter is a $5 cost Action that draws two cards, trashes a card, and then supplies as many Villagers as the cost of the card trashed. Bearing strong resemblances to Masquerade in both similarity and power level, Recruiter is already considered to be one of the strongest cards in Dominion.

Recruiter Basics

Firstly, Recruiter has a leg up on other $5 cost trashers (Junk Dealer, Upgrade, etc.) by virtue of drawing an extra card, which provides both more flexibility in trashing as well as cycling. If Recruiter draws Copper and Estate in the early game, it could be thought of as providing a virtual coin, much like Junk Dealer. However, unlike Junk Dealer (and most trash-from-hand cards), Recruiter does not decrease handsize, which is a valuable trait.

As if that wasn’t good enough, Recruiter is also one of the best Villages in the game. Playing a Recruiter and killing an Estate provides two Villagers, which can be distributed to mitigate collisions and play more aggressively. The effect can be likened to a more flexible Encampment. If Recruiter has more expensive cards to trash throughout the game, it can serve as the primary source of extra Actions for a deck.

Playing with Recruiter

In the same vein as the other $5 trasher variants, if the opening trasher cards are weak enough, it is often a winning play to gun for hitting $5 and buying a Recruiter. Quite often (but not always) it is correct to pick up two Recruiters, one to trash for Villagers and one to trash Coppers. How Recruiters are used and how many are gained depends on the type of deck built.

If there are no other Villages, Recruiter is indispensable in providing that support. Extra gains are going to be important in fueling the Recruiter fire, and gainers that provide high cost fuel such as Gold gainers are the absolute best at this. In a pinch, Recruiters themselves are quite fine as fuel, and once most of the Coppers are gone, a Recruiter can be tossed into the Villager fire. In fact, it may end up being the correct play to buy multiple Recruiters just for blowing up, for the extra reliability. After all, Gold doesn’t draw cards, but Recruiter does.

Some Pitfalls

Recruiter is not really a draw card in itself, and should not be used as primary draw, but only as a supplement. The forced trashing from an increasing number of Recruiters makes multiple plays very dangerous in the long run, despite the lack of hand decreasing. A notable exception is Fortress, which provides both great draw and is practically a soft Champion with the amount of Villagers that can pile up!

Recruiter does a poor job of gaining Villagers with cost reduction, and does not play very well with cards like Highway and Bridge Troll. On the other hand, this defect can sometimes be mitigated with topdecking effects such as Star Chart or Scheme. In addition, if the board contains Shelters over Estates, Recruiter is not as effective in the early game, although this is not too much of a concern in the later stages of the game. If Recruiter was going to be bad in the late game with Shelters, it was going to be bad with Estates anyways.

Closing

Recruiter is a versatile card that provides several effects that by themselves are good, but added together make for one of the strongest cards in the game. If you see Recruiter on the board, it is almost never wrong to pick one up. The earlier you do, the better.

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Groundskeeper

This article was written by JakeTheZipper, with help from the Dominion Strategy Blog Editing Team. If you would like to contribute by writing your own articles, feel free to post them here.

Groundskeeper

Groundskeeper is a difficult card to evaluate and an essential one to understand. It has very high scoring potential, and the pile is often hotly contested. Boards which play to its strengths often see it deplete, and winning the split can be game-decisive.

To avoid burying the lede for anyone who has the question “should I go for Groundskeeper,” It’s a very strong card. You need a compelling reason to ignore it.

Yet, while Groundskeeper helps you win the game with your deck, it does not help you build it.

Let’s start by talking about two Dominion fundamentals that Groundskeeper challenges:

One: Taking longer to build your deck risks an opponent getting a points lead, and making that up usually means depleting key piles (like Province) yourself, further hastening the game end.

Groundskeeper scores points disproportionate to how much it lowers piles, enabling wider “catch-ups.”

Two: Points make your deck worse.

Adding Groundskeepers allows you to score more points per VP card, and the Groundskeepers themselves don’t hurt your deck. Though Groundskeepers don’t change the fact that scoring will eventually make your deck worse, they do delay it by being a source of points that doesn’t. In other words, Groundskeeper lets you add VP cards to your deck later (and fewer of them) without sacrificing overall score.

What does this card do and when should I buy it?

The key to timing Groundskeeper gains (outside of a mirror) is looking at the card as alt VP. A deck that has/plays more of them has a higher point ceiling, so around when you would start buying VP cards, you should consider Groundskeepers instead.

Essentially, it’s a cantrip worth VP equal to the number of VP cards you expect to gain (with it out) by the end of the game. On boards where you can gain only one VP card per turn, you can expect that to be 2-6 VP, depending how your draws go.

Reading Groundskeeper Kingdoms- Does the Split Matter and what do I do if I lose it?

Everything about Groundskeeper is contextual, so we can’t give you much in the way of hard-and-fast prescriptive advice that will always be helpful. Above all, knowing whether or not to get Groundskeepers and what to do once you have them requires good game sense and an accurate read on how/when the game will end.

Remembering that it’s essentially alt VP, it’s usually better to build your deck to best use Groundskeepers before getting them, but sometimes the split is important enough to make an exception.

How quickly Groundskeepers will/should deplete and whether or not you can afford to lose the split (and by how much) comes down to time, number of gains  and reliability (being able to play your Groundskeepers consistently).

Firstly, given enough time, having/playing more Groundskeepers pretty much always wins because of how they raise your point ceiling, so the less control you have over when the game ends, the more important Groundskeepers are.

Number of gains per turn plays into this too. Obviously, multiple VP gains per turn scores more points, but being able to gain multiple Groundskeepers per turn also makes them more important (because they score more points before Provinces empty).

Finally, the more reliable the decks are, the more the split matters.

If both players play all their Groundskeepers every turn and Josephine gets 6 of them to Martin’s 4, her estates are worth as much as his Duchies and double-Duchy turns are worth almost as many points to her as double-Province turns are to him. Given that she has more total points available to her and that she has to spend less money (and possibly put fewer VP cards in her deck) to score as much as Martin, she is in a much stronger endgame position.

Playing with and against Groundskeeper: Point Ceiling and Pile Pressure

When deciding how to play around Groundskeeper and how to interpret your win condition at any given point, remember that time is usually on Groundskeeper’s side.

It should come as no surprise then that a Groundskeeper deck’s greatest threat is endgame pressure. In other words, Groundskeeper doesn’t have its usual advantages if the game is over (or close to it) by the time  you have to put VP in the deck, or at least have it there for very long.

For example, when it’s possible to empty Provinces over the course of a couple of turns (a la a “megaturn” like with Bridge Trolls or Horn of Plentys), you can punish a player who goes for Groundskeepers by ending the game before they provide any value.

That said, it’s very difficult to catch up to a player with more Groundskeepers once they take their (inevitable) lead. It can certainly be the right move to start pressuring Provinces or a three-pile while your opponent has more Groundskeepers, but if you lose the split or don’t go for them, you’re on the clock.

How Many Groundskeepers do I want before I start greening?

Often you want as many as you can get, but It’s important to have an accurate read on how your opponent intends to win and how quickly they can end the game if they need to. Even when Groundskeepers are the best strategy, focusing on them in the wrong way can lose you games. Namely, if you play to them the same way you would in a mirror.

Outside of a mirror, it’s not necessarily a good idea to empty Groundskeepers when fewer than ten could outscore whatever the opponent is doing. There’s the obvious limitation of how much time it takes to empty them by yourself, but it can also be unwise because emptying the pile potentially hastens the game end, something Groundskeeper usually doesn’t want to do against non-Groundskeeper decks.

Bringing everything we’ve covered together, let’s go through an example of some decisions you may need to make in a Groundskeeper game:

The Situation:

Anna has no Groundskeepers, but bought the first Province last turn. Her opponent Destry hits $15 with three buys and considers his options.

If Destry only gets 3 Provinces to Anna’s 5 because he goes for Groundskeepers and she doesn’t, he needs 13 points in addition to the three Provinces to win. He probably needs at least 4 VP cards to have a chance anyway, so assuming 4 VP card gains he needs to have on average 2 or 3 (2.5) Groundskeepers in play across his VP gains to win with a Duchy, or an average of at least 4 in play per VP card to win with an Estate (again, assuming he gets those three Provinces).

So, what should he do? I have no idea, and neither do you.

Because it depends on a lot of context context in addition to the above– how likely either deck is to stall, which/how many VP cards he expects to gain before Provinces empty, could she 3-pile if he lets her start her turn with a points lead.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume he will gain one VP card every turn  after this one (even though he could likely gain more given the circumstances).

Again, the minimum number he’ll probably need to gain is 4, so if he can play all of his Groundskeepers every turn and still do that, he should probably buy 3 of them, effectively gaining at least 12 points versus Province-Groundskeeper for 9 points (the Province plus 1 VP for each VP card he still needs to gain).

If he will miss out on playing one of his Groundskeepers once or twice, it’s closer, but still slightly in favor of triple Groundskeeper to maximize score, and Province plus Duchy gets closer to being best the less reliable/more “sloggy” his deck is (how unlikely he is to play the Groundskeepers).

If he gains multiple VP cards per turn, the Groundskeepers obviously look a lot better. We do some more Groundskeeper-favorable math, but again, always weigh the possible points against how much harder the extra VP cards make it to keep playing our Groundskeepers.

Signs not to Go for Groundskeeper

No single con makes Groundskeeper ignorable. Rather, these are factors that make the card weaker and steer you away from it.

As mentioned before, a “megaturn” deck that empties provinces over the course of one or two turns can often outpace Groundskeeper’s potentially higher but more gradual scoring. Note that adding Groundskeepers doesn’t hurt that deck, but it doesn’t help build it faster.

In an unreliable/”sloggy” deck or one with single VP gains per turn, buying Groundskeepers can be a waste of time. Slogs have trouble playing their Groundskeepers often enough and single-gain games often reward speed over point ceiling, playing away from Groundskeeper’s strengths.

Junking attacks. No deck likes being junked, but Groundskeeper strategies can suffer more, needing both reliability and multiple VP cards to maximize value. I would say Swamp Hag is particularly brutal, but honestly any junking cripples you about the same without strong trashing.

If you take nothing else from this section, understand that we’re talking about specific situations where Groundskeeper is weak, and you need to look for reasons not to buy it– most of the time it plays a pivotal role in the game’s outcome and shouldn’t be ignored.

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Inventor

This “bite-sized” article was originally written by RTT and collaboratively edited by the Dominion Strategy team. We are always looking for more content on the blog, especially concerning the new expansion, Renaissance. If you would like to contribute to the blog, check out the Articles section of the Dominion Strategy Forums, or submit an article outline via PM to Chris is me. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Inventor is the new hot Bridge-Workshop hybrid from the newly released Renaissance expansion. Inventor does two different things: it gains a card up to $4, and reduces the cost of all cards by $1 afterwards. Let’s see how good that is on its own in different situations and how you can put both of these abilities to their best use.

Playing a Single Inventor

In decks where you can only expect to play one Inventor per turn, Inventor functions like a Workshop that also gives you +$1. If you have a source of +Buy, it can be even more efficient. In a “single terminal kingdom” that’s going to be pretty rare, but hey, maybe you got Inventor from the Black Market. A Workshop with +$1 attached for $4 doesn’t sound like a bad deal at all. The downside of a Workshop is often the lack of economy on the turns you play it. With Inventor you don’t sacrifice early economy as much and still get the powerful gaining effect.

Stacking Inventors

Luckily, Inventor can do even better when you play it more than once, because the gaining part synergises really well with its own cost reduction. The second Inventor play is already much more valuable than the first, because $5 cards are some of the most powerful cards in Dominion. With every Inventor you play, you will be able to gain a more expensive card than before. In many kingdoms, there won’t be a $6 or $7 card that you want to gain though, making the 3rd and 4th play somewhat equal to the second in power level.

From the 5th play onward, Inventor is able to gain Provinces.

Megaturning with Inventor

Unlike Bridge, you usually cannot rely on just Inventors as your payload for a megaturn style deck. Playing 7 Bridges can empty the Provinces, while 7 Inventors will just gain 3 of them. So for a megaturn you will either need to play even more Inventors (which will be really hard if the pile is at all contested), or find other cards to supplement your deck. Ideally, extra buys paired with good economy work will make the most of Inventor’s cost reduction.

In practice, I find Inventor decks work out a bit differently than one might expect. Because gaining $4 and $5 cards is so strong already, your deck will improve more quickly, and you will be able to empty the Provinces over 2 or 3 turns more easily than trying to gain them all in one turn.

Inventor gaining so many cards will also naturally drain the piles, making a 3-pile ending much more likely. Keep in mind that Inventor can gain Duchies a lot faster than Provinces, so maybe you want to 3-pile with Duchies instead if the situation calls for it.

Synergies

  • Throne Room variants (stacks the cost reduction like Bridge)
  • +Buys or other gainers
  • Cantrips or Villages you don’t mind gaining extra copies of to enable big Inventor turns
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Donate + Money

This post was originally written by Seprix and edited in collaboration with the Dominion Strategy blog team.

donate

Introduction

Donate is hard, precisely because it offers the world. The normal limitations of Dominion are erased, and games become much faster. With all of the engine possibilities, it may escape players to envision Donate as a Money enabler. It is true that Donate is first and foremost an Engine card. It is also true that Donate gets rid of Money’s biggest weakness: time.

Donate Money?

Money strategies can be thought of as a rush of sorts, where you are “betting” that you can get most of the Provinces before the engine can catch up and the game ends. The main problem with Money strategies most of the time is that they are bad at ending the game quickly enough. Donate provides this very speed and consistency to make it happen.

It is important to note that Money strategies are still usually bad. However, with Donate they will appear more often than normal. Because of this, it is absolutely worth investing into how Donate Money plays, both as a resource and as a baseline for knowing how much time you realistically have.

The Vanilla Donate Money Baseline

Usually, the Donate Money race culminates into the first to 5 Provinces, with importance on consistency of economy for sustainable Duchy scoring afterwards. A pure Donate Money strategy ends up with 4-5 Provinces in about 11-12 turns, but struggles to score consistently afterwards. What is this strategy, you may ask? According to xnor’s calculations: (assume any standard opening besides 2/5)

  • Turn 1: Buy Silver
  • Turn 2: Donate down to Silver + 4 Coppers
  • Turn 3: Pay off debt
  • Turn 4: Buy Gold
  • Turn 5: Buy Gold
  • Turn 6: Donate down to Gold, Gold, Silver, paying off debt
  • Turn 7: Buy Province (or a 1/7 chance of missing Province due to last turn’s Donate not hitting $8, in which case buy Gold)
  • Turn 8: Buy Province
  • Turn 9: Buy Province
  • Turn 10+: Buy Province or Gold or Silver forever, pivot to Duchies later

Estimated First Province: Turn 7

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 10-11

Memorize this. This baseline is actually incredibly powerful, and will be as strong as some other Donate Money variants. It is important to note that this baseline is somewhat terrible at scoring Duchies while maintaining Province pressure, and will potentially falter against more consistent Donate Money strategies, despite sometimes being just as fast initially. Thusly, Vanilla Donate Money will struggle to put a nail into the coffin of games versus other Donate Money variants, and while it might sometimes come out with a win, it probably won’t.

Another thing to consider is the time spent before the first Province. Vanilla Donate Money is at a snail’s pace when it comes to first scoring on Turn 7. If a particular Money strategy is already at 2 Provinces on Turn 7, it won’t matter too much if both strategies get to the same end goal of 4 Provinces by Turn 10. The tempo pressure will be on the Vanilla strategy to buy Duchies in order to not risk simply losing, which has already been established to be a terrible weakness for Vanilla Money.

Of course, all of this is contextual. There still is a lot of discovering to do with all of the various types of money plays and lines, but here are some of the more powerful variants, in no particular order.

Amulet + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Amulet
  • Turn 2: Amulet
  • Turn 3: Play Amulet to gain Silver, Donate to 0 Coppers
    • (If you don’t have Amulet in play, Donate anyways but you will be a turn slower.)
  • Turn 4+: Always gain Silver with Amulet unless you have $7 in hand, otherwise Amulet should gain a +$1.
    • (After your first Province, if you miss $8 you may buy Duchies.)

Estimated First Province: Turn 6

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 11 + Duchy

As it turns out, Double Amulet is pretty okay! Double Amulet not only straight up beats Pure Donate in scoring the first Province, but also in getting more points!

Explorer + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Donate to 5 Coppers
  • Turn 2: Pay off remaining debt
  • Turn 3: Buy Explorer
  • Turn 4: Gain Silver, buy Gold
  • Turn 5+: Buy Province, Donate the next turn down, trash everything but Explorer, Province, Golds, and you may keep a single Silver.

Estimated First Province: Turn 5-6

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 9-10

Don’t be afraid to Province incredibly early, then Donate to finish clean-up the next turn. With the constant influx of Gold, one Silver won’t kill to have around ($8 vs $9, no difference). However, More than one Silver risks 2 Silver/1 Gold hands ($7) which are incredibly sad.

For 5/2, you open Explorer and then Donate down to 2 Coppers. On Turn 4, you buy a Silver, Turn 5 is a guaranteed Province, and then you can Donate everything immediately afterwards.

On 2/5, you cry, buy nothing/Explorer, hope to draw Explorer T3 and Donate.

Windfall + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Donate to 5 Coppers
  • Turn 2: Pay off debt
  • Turn 3: Windfall
  • Turn 4: Donate to 3 Golds
  • Turn 5-7: Buy two Provinces and Windfall again in any order, the timing is the same either way.
  • Turn 8+: Buy Provinces or Duchies forever

Estimated First Province: Turn 5-6

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 9

This strategy can hold Duchies well due to the density of Golds, and is highly consistent!

Market Square + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Market Square
  • Turn 2: Market Square
  • Turn 3: Play Market Square, buy Market Square + Donate, keep two Coppers and react all of your Market Squares.
    • (If you don’t find Market Square, Donate anyways but cry that you will be a turn slower.)
  • Turn 4: Buy as many Market Squares as you can while still being able to Donate and having 7 or less Debt. Kill the remaining two Coppers, reacting your Market Squares for Golds. As long as you have 7 or less Debt, you have a guaranteed Province the next turn. (5 Gold hand of $15 minus 7 Debt is exactly $8.)
  • Turn 5+: Buy Province+

Estimated First Province: Turn 5

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 8

This strategy is wicked fast and is one of the best if not the best two card combo in Dominion.

Another fantastic thing about this line is how quickly you can pivot into engine play, due to the massive amounts of instant payload and buy. You are not hitting more than $15 a turn without draw support, so use the board to improve on this baseline! Also keep in mind that you can buy an extra Copper at any point to not lose a Gold when triggering additional Donates, if you want to continue gaining Golds.

Fool’s Gold + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Fool’s Gold
  • Turn 2: Fool’s Gold
  • Turn 3: Fool’s Gold (or if you have $5+ on this hand, you may Donate immediately to 2 Fool’s Gold, still get the third Fool’s Gold but save a turn in speed.)
  • Turn 4: Donate to 3 Fool’s Gold
  • Turn 5: Pay off debt, buy Fool’s Gold (here you can pivot to the Kingdom itself and play something even better than the baseline.)
  • Turn 6+: Province

Estimated First Province: Turn 6

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 10

Another strong baseline that while playing similar to Vanilla Donate Money, is just simply faster and stronger.

When To Not Pursue Donate Money

All of these strategies are certainly very fast, and often very predetermined to boot! Are there ways to stop these strategies? What is the best way to trip money up, than the classic attacking method? Good Attacks stop money hard as per the usual. Even with access to Donate, junkers like Witch and Mountebank absolutely gum up most of these money strats, giving alternate strategies time to catch up. Discard attacks can work wonders sometimes, although beware of Gold or Fool’s Gold centric money strategies which only need 3 card hands to work! Of course, for the action centric money strategies like Amulet, Enchantress absolutely tears holes into any plans.

Of course, these Donate strategies are still in a lot of ways worse than Donate engines. It’ll be close, but Engines in a lot of cases can end games by Turn 12-13, and should more than catch up by the end. A fast Donate strategy can catch the unprepared slow build engine by surprise, but don’t forget that there are also wicked fast engines. Another disincentive for money is abundance of Alt-VP, which gives the engine player more time to build. Just keep in mind that you are on the clock!

Closing Thoughts

Donate money is an incredibly fast variant of Money, and one that poses interesting questions to the player in any given Donate game. However, in many cases these highlighted strategies (among others) only serve as a baseline, as either a way to kick off the engine even faster or to combo with even more cards in the Kingdom, and you may find yourself only implementing the beginning steps of some of these lines. As with any Donate game, always keep your eyes open for better and more efficient ways to do things!

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Dominion Tournament in Cincinnati, OH

Game Swap Mason, OH

1065 Reading Rd, Ste E, Mason, Ohio 45040

Facebook event

Join us for my tenth Dominion tournament at 1PM on Saturday, January 12, 2019 in Mason, OH (near Cincinnati). RSVP is not required — you can just show up, but it helps me plan if I know who is coming in advance, and if you’re traveling in from far away I can make sure you don’t get left out if you get stuck in traffic or something.

This tournament will consist of two-player games, and have a $5 entry fee. I’m not able to give out promo cards or qualify the winner for GenCon, but I will have something to give out to everyone who enters. Portions of the prize pool (80% of the entry fees) will be given to the top finishers.

The winner of the tournament will have the opportunity to play a “trophy match” against me. You may pick any kingdom you like and you may go first; if you win, you get to hold on to the Scout trophy (pictured in the Facebook event) until the next tournament. If you lose, you still get the standard first-place prize for winning this tournament.

All expansions (including Renaissance!) and promo cards may be used, I won’t be using any of the removed cards from Base or Intrigue, though. All kingdoms used in the playoffs will be designed and playtested by me and some helpers who will not be playing in the tournament.

I anticipate we’ll be done by 8PM, and if you are eliminated early on in the tournament you could be done earlier — everyone who enters is guaranteed at least four games in the tournament. During and after the tournament, there will be the regular Saturday board gaming event.

Official Tournament Format Document

Any questions or RSVPs can either be posted here or the Facebook event, PMed to me, or you can send me E-mail at adam@adamhorton.com . Hope to see you there!

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The Secret History Of Dominion: Renaissance

This Secret History was written by Donald X and originally posted to the Dominion Strategy Forums.

Going into work on this set, I had two plans. First, to see what I could do with States. States showed up in Nocturne, just as a way to deal with tracking for a few effects; I had put no work into trying to see what I could do with them, and well probably I could do something with them. Second, to try to do more with the coin tokens from Guilds. They were popular and it seemed like maybe I could actually do more with them.

Along the way I added a third goal: to make a set that was much simpler than the last few sets. The expansions naturally get more complex as you go along, since you run out of new simple things to do. I felt like things had gotten too complex though, and wanted to swing things back the other direction as much as possible. So the set intentionally has a bunch of off-theme cards, which is to say, cards that don’t involve any of the new mechanics; and I limited myself to text that would fit with the large font, and for the landscape cards, text that would fit with the large font on two lines (then Innovation needed three during layout due to the expansion symbol). And the set tried to stay simple in other ways too.

Initially I did two things with States: I had ones that one player could have, and ones that every player got a copy of. The ones that every player got could turn over; one side would have a rule that let you upgrade it. We liked these a lot.

One of the two-sided States was a lot like the Journey token from Adventures – it was, some cards flipped it over, but when it flipped over one way nothing happened, and the other way gave you +1 Action. So some cards essentially had +1 Action half the time you played them. This was cool. But wait: maybe I could just have +1 Action tokens, to go with the +$1 tokens. And I switched to that and it was even better.

So… +1 Buy tokens? I had them in the set for a bit there. And there was a 4th mat, unrelated to the others. In the end I felt like, we were eating up so much table space with mats, and hey what about being simpler. So there are just Coffers and Villagers. And they got those names and notation and then since we were updating Guilds for reprinting it got the Coffers mat too.

The other two-sided States, they were good times, but did not go well with the idea of a simpler expansion. Here, read this extra card, now turn it over. They turned into Projects: you pay to put a cube on a card, and now you have that ability. This is not only simpler – no second side to read, no text to explain how to upgrade it – it also means only one card per Project, rather than six (for six players) per two-sided State. So I could fit way more of them into the set, hooray.

The one-sided States persisted, but somewhere along the way I realized I should use a different name for them, to clarify that only one player got them. So they are Artifacts. The Artifacts were tricky; you want them to move around but not every turn, and they want to be attractive but not have the game hinge on them. I thought there might be 8; there are 5, and I struggled to get those.

Coffers tokens were also problematic; when you have a giant pile of those tokens, it’s pretty demoralizing for the other players, and sometimes it’s even a good strategy. So only one card gives +2 Coffers each time it’s played, and some only sometimes produce +Coffers, and some do it when-gained. Villagers tokens had no issues. Go ahead and get a bunch if you want.

So, I think that covers it: Coffers, Villagers, Artifacts, Projects, and cards that do none of those things.

It turned out Ben King had been working on a Dominion program as a fun project, and he programmed in Renaissance and we playtested it some there. Thanks Ben! He also wrote some bots to demonstrate how powerful some particular cards were.

Cards

Acting Troupe: Here you go, some villagers. At first this gave +5 Villagers. Too many.

Border Guard: For a while this had no Artifacts. I wanted more Artifacts and saw that I could add one here, which was Lantern. Then I needed to put another Artifact somewhere and saw that this could have two Artifacts, so it got Horn.

Cargo Ship: The concept debuted on a 2-sided State, limited to Treasures. The first version as a card set aside all gains, and doled them out at one per turn, like Archive. Then it was just one card, and that was better but weak – it cost $5. I tried it with +2 Coffers, then just lowered it to costing $4 and then $3.

Ducat: A late card. I needed a $2, and a +1 Buy card. Matt suggested making it a Treasure and there it is. It didn’t change, but it did get argued about. Adam felt like it was “strictly better” than Candlestick Maker. I am pretty sure it isn’t. What feels better is when you trash a Copper with it… which effectively costs you $3. But any which way, one is a Treasure and one an Action, and various things make those categories matter. It and Candlestick Maker are more similar than most pairs of cards, and well, twelfth expansion, trying to have simple cards, no regrets.

Experiment: We tried several versions of this. After a bit as a Smithy (based on another card that died), it switched to a Lab, because that way there’s usually no tracking (it uses an Action but gives +1 Action, so when it vanishes your play area still tells you the whole story, yes unless you Throne it or something). For a bit they both went to the same place – e.g. if you used Sculptor to gain Experiment, both Experiments went to your hand. That was too confusing for how often it came up. There was a version that was two different cards, the first gained you a copy of the second (the second being non-supply); there was a version that was three one-shot Labs instead of two; there was one that was like Border Village, it got you a cheaper card instead of another Experiment. In the end it’s two one-shot Labs, which it was early on, but with a better wording.

Flag Bearer: Originally you took the Flag when you played it. Well at some point maybe you are drawing your decks and you just pass it back and forth. That isn’t so great. I briefly tried only getting the Flag if Flag Bearer was your first play of the turn; then if you’re drawing your decks it just sits there on the player who got lucky. Also bad. Changing it to when-gain/trash fixed it up every which way; anyone could take it on their turn, so it’s not “those two are fighting over that, let them,” and yet the cost varies (maybe this turn you have $5) and gets higher over time (how many of these Flag Bearers can my deck really handle).

Hideout: One of the first cards in the set, and it never changed.

Improve: Ben and Steveie requested I make a new card that gave you card progression reminiscent of Procession. At first it cost $4, and triggered when discarding a card from play. It shifted to the start of Clean-up in order to avoid having it be possible for every effect in Dominion to happen in the middle of discarding your cards.

Inventor: One of the 2-sided State cards was a Workshop that could get you a Scheme-a-turn that turned into Citadel (but it worked on Treasures too). For some reason I added a Bridge effect to it, while it still used a State. Then I decided the State needed a different card, but kept the Workshop plus Bridge card sans States. We also tried it at $5 with the bottom part of Silk Merchant, but that was too helpful. Inventor does mega-turns, and ideally you don’t always have just what you need there.

Lackeys: Originally it was +2 Cards, turn over your thing that gets you +1 Action half the time. It went straight from that to the final version.

Mountain Village: The last card added. An early village with a negative Artifact didn’t work out; then I made a new village with two Artifacts that also didn’t work out. I decided the move was to just try to have a cool village, and not care about the Artifact being tacked-on, and this was the stand-out from the things I tried. At first you got an Artifact if your discard pile was empty; then I tried giving you the Artifact and +1 Card, and finally moved the Artifact to Recruiter (not what it did, but just, having an Artifact) (and of course Recruiter didn’t keep it).

Patron: The first version had a two-sided State (it was a Cathedral that turned into a Cargo Ship for Treasures if you trashed a $5+ card). When those went away, I preserved the top and added the reaction. I fiddled with the wording some, to try to make it clear, but the idea stayed the same.

Priest: This started out giving you an Artifact if you trashed a card costing $3 or more; the Artifact had you draw a card each time you trashed a card. Sometimes the Artifact felt really important, and it sucked to have to eat your deck to fight over it. I tried changing the condition to “if you trashed a card that hadn’t been trashed yet,” then dropped the Artifact, and switched to getting a bonus per trash right on the card. The bonus was +$2 first, but I also tried +1 Coffers for comparison. It gets rid of some tracking but I liked +$2 better.

Old Witch: For a while the set’s Witch was “Choose one: +3 Cards; or take the Evil Eye; or each other player gains a Curse.” The Evil Eye was an Artifact that had you Curse the other players whenever gaining VP. We had fun with it for a while. Going for Evil Eye early and hard didn’t work, but when someone did take the Evil Eye at a reasonable time, they would suddenly hand out so many Curses. Another issue was, wait, if you Moat this, they can’t take the Artifact from you? Matt suggested it not being an Attack, which would have had a certain something – Young Witch has a built-in Moat, Old Witch is un-Moat-able. In the end I gave up on it and replaced it with this, the Witch that only temporarily gives you Curses.

Recruiter: I tried trashing a card for +Coffers, and for a mix of +Coffers and +Villagers. It turned out to be too good of a strategy by itself – just madly convert your cards into tokens. But +Villagers by itself wouldn’t have that problem, so I made that card and it was great. A kind of inverse Apprentice. Then at the last minute it got an Artifact, in order to not have the Artifact on Mountain Village. Then at the very last minute I moved the Artifact to Border Guard. We’d been happy with Recruiter, and this way I avoided having another card with multiple mechanics.

Research: Gradually, the set developed an at-first unintentional trash-for-benefit theme – cards that do something when gained or trashed, plus nice ways to trash them. So when I was filling the last few slots, I tried to get in some more of that. This is like Apprentice, but you get the cards next turn, and since they’re set aside you have to have cards left to set aside for it.

Scepter: A way to replay actions was an old idea. Well Royal Carriage does it but you know, as a card you played. Royal Carriage happened, but this did not, because what if this game there’s no card with +1 Action? You couldn’t play your after-the-fact Throne Room. A fix is to make it a Treasure, and that card tried out for Nocturne. Well first it was a Night card, and both the Night and Treasure actually returned you to your Action phase, so that most effects would be meaningful. I didn’t feel like it was adding much, and changed it to a Treasure that didn’t change phases, which meant that many cards were now no good with it. Which I liked; it made it more of a combo card. It was a poor fit for a set with a lot of Night cards though. It made a list of cards to try in the next set, and when the time came, we tried it again, and then I made it both weaker when strong and stronger when weak, by changing it from always making $1, to either making $2 or replaying a card.

Scholar: This never changed. A poster child for the set being simple.

Sculptor: One of the first cards in the set. It used the “+1 Action every other time” thing like Lackeys, then switched to +1 Villager, and that’s that.

Seer: At first it got you cards costing $2 or less, but that was too strong early on. Then $2 or $3, then $2-$4.

Silk Merchant: Briefly this was like a Pawn when gained/trashed, only with tokens in place of +$1 and +1 Action. I always like the idea of a when-gain that can draw cards, but it never survives, for the same reason: in the default situation, you don’t want the cards. And then the triggered +1 Buy was problematic. So, no choice, it just gives you the other two.

Spices: Briefly there was a treasure that gave you your choice of a mix of 2 tokens when you played it – Coffers, Villagers, or the +Buy mat. Then, a treasure worth $2 that gave you +2 Coffers and +1 Buy mat token when gained; this was somewhat inspired by a card of Matt’s. Then I got rid of the +Buy mat, but moved the +Buy to the top of the card.

Swashbuckler: An early poster child for the 2-sided States gave +3 Cards and added a token to the State (or took it if you didn’t have it); when one side got 3 tokens it flipped over and gave you +3 Villagers, and when the other side got 3 tokens it flipped over and got you +3 Coffers and 3 Golds. It was called Jungle Explorer, and the state was Base Camp / Ancient Ruins. When the 2-sided States died, I tried to capture at least some of the spirit of the card, and this is how I did it.

Treasurer: Initially this couldn’t get stuff from the trash. That change gave it combos and was great. Late in the going I wanted to try to have more Artifacts and squeezed the Key onto this. It didn’t need it to be good enough; it was just a place that I could reasonably fit an Artifact.

Villain: I tried a few different Militias before getting here. When it got close to what it is, there were versions that looked for cards costing $3+ or $5+, versions that made you discard all copies of what you discarded, and versions that only attacked if you had enough Coffers tokens.

Projects

Academy: Unchanged, though there were many unrelated cards called Academy.

Barracks: One of the first Projects, and it never changed.

Canal: Unchanged. A lot of these ideas were just fine from the get-go.

Capitalism: There was a thing that made your Silvers be Peddlers in your Action phase, then a thing that tried making your Treasures into Actions. It just isn’t useful often enough. Once I hit on this, it was a question, should it be “+$ amounts” or specific ones, e.g. “+$2 or +$3.” We tried it both ways.

Cathedral: This started as the front of a 2-sided State, that turned over if you trashed a card costing $5+. Once it became a Project, it didn’t change.

Citadel: This also started as part of a 2-sided State, though it was the harder-to-get 2nd side. It originally replayed your first play each turn, which could be Action, Treasure or Night; this was just too confusing though, everyone just mentally thought it only worked on Actions. Spelling it out was poor, so, it just works on Actions. So much for the sneaky Throne Room for Night cards.

City Gate: The last Project. Unchanged.

Crop Rotation: This was $5 and “discard an Action,” then $5 and “Victory,” then the final version.

Exploration: At first this gave +2 Coffers. Ben demonstrated that it was too strong with a bot.

Fair: Another early Project that never changed.

Guildhall: Unchanged.

Fleet: This started and ended at $5, but went up to $8 in the middle. I messed with the wording so that the turn order would be natural.

Innovation: This started at $5.

Pageant: This cost $2 at first, but a Project can’t cost $2 (unless it has a penalty) – you just automatically buy it sometimes.

Piazza: Unchanged. Werothegreat suggested doing a one-card Golem Project; Matt pitched it as a Vassal; there it is.

Road Network: Unchanged.

Sewers: Unchanged.

Silos: Unchanged.

Sinister Plot: Early on I had a Duration card that sat there accumulating Coffers tokens until you popped it. There were a few versions. It’s no fun seeing a giant pile of tokens on the other side of the table, so these died. Then I brought it back as the same thing but for +Cards. Somehow way more tolerable. So one day, you’d have a big turn. This was in the set for a while. Then I turned it into a Project, which only takes one card instead of eleven. As a Project there’s the concern of, can we all keep our tokens separate, and well, we always managed.

Star Chart: We tried several versions of a card that gained you a card each time you shuffled. It had problems every which way. This was a better fit for “thing to do when you shuffle.”

Outtakes

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Witch in 2018

This post was originally written by Titandrake and edited in collaboration with the Dominion Strategy blog team.

WitchDigital

“Witch is a defining card in Dominion. … Curses are the strongest attack in the game, and Witch is as straightforward a Cursing attack as it gets. “

theory, “The Five Best $5 Attacks”, April 2011

“No matter what kind of deck you’re playing, you will benefit from buying a Witch and playing it as often as possible.”

theory, “Guide to the Dominion Base Game”, June 2011

“Witch is a guaranteed Curser with no drawback and definitely one of the strongest cards in the game.”

Qvist Dominion Card List, January 2012

“It’s good.

Buy it.

If you don’t, you better have a good reason, and I mean a REALLY good reason.”

Titandrake, “Witch”, June 2013

It’s been 10 years since Dominion came out, cards have shifted up and down in relative power level, but through it all is one constant:

Witch is still a good card.

You should still buy it.

If you don’t, you should still have a good reason, and I mean a REALLY good reason.

“But there’s a way to trash Curses!”

No, every Curse they trash is a Copper or Estate they didn’t get to trash.

“But the trasher competes at the $5 price point!”

You may want to buy the trasher first, but if you do, you should probably still buy the Witch later.

“But Mountebank is in the kingdom!”

Actually, after you play Mountebanks a few times, your opponents can have enough Curses to block Mountebank fairly often. In this scenario, Witch can turn into the better Curser. The +2 Cards can also be a big deal compared to the +$2 Mountebank gives you.

“But Moat is in the kingdom!”

Having a Witch still threatens handing out Curses. They only have to fail to have Moat once to get punished for it. And if they buy a lot of Moats, then you’ve hurt them in a different way: they spent a bunch of buys on Moats.

“But Lighthouse is in the kingdom!”

Okay. The Moat principle still applies – they only have to miss it once to get hurt. However, Lighthouse is genuinely different. As a non-terminal, it’s more okay to have several Lighthouses, and in some games (like Minion games) it’s even beneficial. Additionally, for Moat to block Witch, it has to be drawn in the opening hand. For Lighthouse to block Witch, it needs to be drawn any time in the previous turn, a much looser condition. A strong enough engine can block all attacks with just 2 Lighthouses.

So sometimes, they do have enough Lighthouses to make buying Witch redundant. But if you notice they’ve gotten complacent and are starting to miss Lighthouse turns, maybe you should reconsider that Witch…

“But Ambassador or Masquerade is in the kingdom!”

These are the most regular counters to Witch. Witch is great because giving away Curses is great. It sucks when they give the Curse back, especially while also thinning their own deck.

“But I’m drawing my deck, and I have a trasher, and I’m out of things I want to trash with it! I’ll just trash the Curse if I get Witched!”

Sure, this is true for now. It’s easy for this to stop being true, as you add payload or Victory cards to your deck. Much like the Moat argument, if they’re playing Witch every turn, you only have to fail to draw your trasher once to fall behind on having a thin deck. Once you fall behind the first time, it’s more likely you fall behind the next, and soon your thin deck can have 3 Curses in it. It’s a classic recipe for beating people who are overconfident in their deck’s reliability, and with Witch in the kingdom, you need to be extra careful not to fall behind in the deck size battle.

A lot of new players don’t like Witch, because it slows down the game. Most people’s idea of fun is playing a bunch of cards and producing a bunch of money. Witch gets in the way of that. But I like Witch. When I give out Curses, I think to myself “yes”. When I get Curses, I think to myself “no”. Even if you don’t like it, you have to respect it.

Sometimes, you can skip Witch, and you get to be a Hero. Maybe even a Champion. Just be careful out there. Curses make the world a scary place.

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Dominion: Renaissance – Release and Card Spoilers

The latest Dominion expansion, Dominion: Renaissance, officially released online today, and will be available in retail stores imminently. This also means that the full text of all cards has been revealed, as well as the game manual, which can be accessed here.

Below are the newly revealed cards. The images are taken from the online client which matches the wording but not necessarily the exact layout of the printed cards; for the newest, sharpest images, check the Dominion Strategy Wiki.

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Coffers

This article was written by Polk5440 and briefly reviewed by the rest of the Dominion Strategy blog team. Stay tuned for Renaissance spoilers in the next few days, as the new expansion is likely to be available in stores and online as soon as Monday.

Coffers (née Coin Tokens) have been around since Guilds was first released in 2013. With the upcoming release of Renaissance, which once again utilizes Coffers, now is a good time to review some of what we know about how and when to use Coffers.

Save Coffers to Hit Key Price Points

One Coffers is equivalent to $1 which can be used on any turn. Coffers can be saved for later; coins can’t. This added ability makes +1 Coffers better than +$1.

For example, if you have $4 and buy a Silver, you waste $1. With Coffers, you don’t waste the extra money and save it for hitting key price points later. Getting a hand of two Coppers, one Potion, and two Estates is a complete waste if you are looking to buy a Familiar. Avoid this bad luck by using a well-saved Coffers.

Because of the added ability to save Coffers, cards that give +1 Coffers are generally weaker in their other abilities than cards that give +$1. Additionally, for most of the game, no more than one or two Coffers is usually needed to be kept on the mat to hit key price price points. Therefore, while there is a huge benefit to acquiring that first card that gives Coffers, the marginal benefit of a second or third card that give Coffers to your deck is much lower.

Spend Coffers Early

Just because Coffers can be saved for the future does not mean they should. Spending Coffers earlier leads to a compounding effect. Better cards now help you get more, even better cards sooner.

A good rule of thumb is that Coffers acquired early in the game should be spent as soon as possible to buy better cards. For example, while Baker starts you off with just one Coffers, if your opening draw is $3/$4, that one Coffers can get you a key $5 card in your deck an entire shuffle earlier than otherwise. Saving that one Coffers for later has a very high opportunity cost of not getting that better card now.

Beyond a Coffers, or maybe two, there really isn’t a lot of reason to keep more Coffers around in the early to mid game for smoothing out your buys. The extra Coffers should probably be spent on better stuff for your deck.

Hoard Coffers Late

Should you ever hang onto more than a couple of Coffers?  Yes. Late in the game, keeping a handful of Coffers can be used for hitting key price when your deck starts to sputter from gaining lots of green cards and is unable to consistently produce the same amount of money per turn. For example, you might want to consistently hit $8 for Province. With three Coffers stored, a sequence of turns that yields $8, $7, and $6 scores three Provinces, but no Coffers and a sequence of $8, $7, and $6 only scores one Province and two Duchies.

Additionally you can hoard Coffers late to threaten bigger buys. If you have a lot of Coffers, say 8 or more, sitting on the mat, and your deck can generate extra buys (or gains that allow using Coffers, like via Butcher), you are threatening to pick up multiple Provinces or other big Victory cards at your convenience. This can give you a lot of control in the endgame.

How many Coffers you need and how you use them in the endgame depends on how long the greening phase will be drawn out.

Coffers are a unique resource in Dominion. Hoard them late, spend them early, and save them to hit key price points. With the upcoming release of Renaissance, it will be fun to see all the interactions and strategies the new Coffers cards will bring.

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