Announcement: Article Release Schedule Change

After much consideration and feedback, changes are going to be made to the article release schedule. The reason for the change is so that contributors don’t get burnt out, and to ensure high quality content continues to be created.  The changes to the article schedule are as follows:

Mondays: Weekly Article

Wednesdays: Announcements, Game Analysis Videos, and Special Articles that fall outside typical strategy articles.

Fridays: Weekly Podcast

For those looking forward to this week’s Game Analysis video, Burning Skull’s How to Base Dominion series is an excellent series to watch. Burning Skulls is a top-ten ranked player on the Dominion Online Leaderboard, and his videos explain various Base Dominion 2nd Edition strategies in-depth. Please note that the audio quality improves in later episodes.

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Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us About Dominion

Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us About Dominion

Original Article by 4est

This article was written by forum member 4est and is being discussed on this thread. Please feel free to join the conversation

sentry

When we first saw Sentry, here is how many of us reacted (myself included):

  • First reads it: “Whoa, what a powerful trasher!”
  • Actually plays with it: “Well, that was a bit disappointing…”

As it turns out, Sentry isn’t the most powerful trasher ever (see Donate).  But it is very powerful nonetheless, and is usually the first $5 you should buy on many boards, especially on 5-2 openings.

What does it do and how do I use it?

Sentry does two things: it trashes and it sifts.

Trashing
In case you haven’t heard, trashing is very, very good.  And Sentry has the ability to nonterminally trash two cards, without reducing your handsize or buying power the turn you play it.  Unlike other trashers such as Masquerade, Upgrade, or Junk Dealer which trash cards from your hand, Sentry trashes cards from the top of your deck (similar to Lookout).  Sentry’s main advantage over cards like Lookout, Upgrade, and Junk Dealer is its potential to trash two cards instead of one.  In the first few shuffles, your deck is mostly bad cards, giving Sentry’s narrow window of two targets a much greater chance of hitting two Coppers or Estates.  But as you add more good cards to your deck and move into midgame, Sentry tends to struggle to hit cards you want to trash.  For these reasons, it’s critical to start trashing with Sentry quickly.

Sifting
While Sentry’s trashing is by far the most important aspect of the card in the early game, its sifting ability shouldn’t be forgotten.  In the endgame especially, Sentry helps you sift through Victory cards to keep your deck reliable.  Sentry is perhaps weakest in the midgame, when it slows down trashing (outside of the occasional Copper or Curse), but doesn’t have much green to discard either.  That said, it can still be useful for controlling which cards you draw next; especially once you’ve started adding draw or other power cards like King’s Court to your deck, it’s usually better to discard treasures like Silver or Gold instead of leaving them on top, to give yourself a better chance of keeping your turn going.

Deck Inspection Interactions
It’s also good to keep in mind that Sentry’s function as a deck inspector can be very helpful with a few cards like Vassal, Wishing Well, Mystic, and Herald.

When should I get it?

Short answer: ASAP.

Since Sentry trashes most efficiently in the early game, you’ll want to hit $5 as quickly as you can.  If you’re lucky enough to open 5-2, do not hesitate to pick up a Sentry, even over powerful junkers like Witch or Cultist (by prioritizing trashing first, you’ll be able to play your junker more frequently later).  If you open 4-3, then you want to make sure that your opening buys maximize your chances of hitting $5 on your next shuffle, so consider getting at least one Silver or an Action which can produce economy like Militia, Poacher, or Mill.

After getting your first Sentry, it is often worth aiming to get a second one as well to speed up your trashing in the early game, though on some boards it’s more important to pick up other powerful $5s first.  Unlike some mandatory trashers like Junk Dealer which can become dead cards later, Sentry will never harm your deck and it’s usually good to have several.  When available, it’s sometimes better to pick up a different trasher instead of a second Sentry since Sentry struggles to hit the last few junk cards in your deck..

It’s very rare that you skip Sentry altogether—if you do, it’s either because stronger trashing is available (such as Donate) or it’s an extremely weak board without any engine potential or with much faster rush or money enablers.  But most often, Sentry is a must buy.

How does it compare to Upgrade and Junk Dealer?

Many have noticed Sentry’s similarities to Upgrade and Junk Dealer.  All three are $5-cost cantrips which are powerful early game trashers, and have different pros and cons.  Upgrade of course can turn Estates into $3s and function as a gainer, while Junk Dealer provides economy while trashing.  Both trash from hand and can provide greater chances of hitting trash targets than Sentry’s two-card range.  However, Sentry’s potential to trash two cards, sifting flexibility, and non-mandatory trashing are major advantages.  Additionally, the fact that Sentry doesn’t reduce your handsize or buying power the turn you play it is a huge plus.  On boards with Sentry and Junk Dealer/Upgrade, Sentry should usually be your first priority, while still aiming to get the other trasher for support.

What does Sentry teach us about playing Dominion?

Perhaps more than any other trasher besides Chapel, Sentry vividly demonstrates how critical it is to start trashing early, since it’s easiest to line up your trashers with targets when your deck is mostly bad cards.  The difference in trashing effectiveness between opening Sentry vs. getting Sentry after the first shuffle can be significant, and even more so if you miss getting Sentry until after the second shuffle.  The same is true of many trashers—the earlier you get them, the sooner you’ll clean out your starting cards, get control over your deck, and start making more use of your better cards and playing them more often.

In general, when building an engine, trashing your starting cards should be your first priority—before adding draw or payload.  It’s painful to watch players open Lab or Festival instead of Sentry on a 5-2, or draw a lucky $6 on turn 3 and get Gold instead of Sentry.  By not trashing first, your Lab will draw mostly junk and you will see your Gold and Festival less frequently amid the sea of Coppers.  And then if you get your trasher afterwards, you’ll have a harder time lining it up with junk, than if you had gotten it first.

On a grander scale, Sentry teaches us the importance of gaining control over your deck.  If you’ve ever watched a good player build an engine, you’ll notice that they not only know exactly what’s in their deck, but often where things are in their deck.  They are meticulous in what order they buy and play cards, and their deck seems to flow so smoothly, rarely getting stuck or disordered.  Sentry’s early trashing will quickly reduce the chances of your deck stalling, and its sifting keeps things reliable, so you know that your next Village will draw a Smithy and not a Province or a Gold.  Dominion is a game that rewards control and precision and learning to use Sentry effectively will help grow these skills, even on boards without Sentry.

Recommended Resources

If you want to see how powerful Sentry can be when played well, check out Burning Skull’s How to Base Dominion videos (especially videos #1, 5, 11, 15, and 17).

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The Outpost: A Dominion Podcast: The Beginning

Here is the first official episode of the Dominion Strategy Podcast, The Outpost. Seprix and Beyond Awesome discuss the removed cards from the Base Set and Intrigue. And, then they talk about the new additions to the 2nd editions. Next week, we will have a special guest.  Please join the discussion about this podcast on the Dominion Strategy forum.

 

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Your Greatest Opponent: Advice From A Top Dominion Player

The following article is from forum poster jsh357. You can read the original article and comments from the community by following the link.

Recognize the Elephant in the Room

Not too long ago, I reached #3 on the Dominion Online leaderboard, the only two players above me being two of the best players the game has ever seen. It was a surprisingly humbling experience; I had come off of a hot streak, and didn’t feel I had truly earned my placing. Since then, I have stayed in the Top 8 or so, and the experience got me thinking about the way I play, the way my opponents play, and the future of myself playing this game.

In reflecting on this, I came to an important realization: my greatest opponent in this game was not Stef, who was #1 at the time, but my own dumb self. I remembered the only time I had a tournament match against Stef, the SemiFinals of last year’s Dominion Strategy Championships. Without getting into too many boring specifics, I threw two of those games: one by making a tragic endgame mistake and misjudging his number of buys, another by missing a complicated pile-out that I recognized on the next turn. If I had won those two games, there’s a chance I would have been “the best” for some period of time. To be honest, I was broken up over this for about two weeks. But truthfully, what would that win even have meant? I certainly wouldn’t be the best Dominion player in the world! Obviously, Stef still existed—he would have just played some cards incorrectly and let me win on a fluke.

However, in thinking about this reflection, I realized the best thing that tournament had done for me: it forced me to carefully consider these two critical decision points that I ruined for myself. Sure, Stef took advantage of my mistakes, but there was nothing I could have done (short of blackmail) to influence that. To find those winning plays, I had to go back and look at the dumb idiot who made the bad plays and figure out how he could fix them. There’s a natural resistance to doing this, as we want to believe we played games well and don’t want to dwell on errors, but AS I SEE IT this is the path to reaching the top. It dawned on me that certainly Stef and any other top player did the same thing, consciously or not, and that was what separated them from players who always seemed to miss the things top players saw.

Preface and Plugs

This article won’t be long—it’s simply a bulleted list of points I want players who wish to reach the top to consider. My audience is online players in the 2 player metagame, but hopefully some of these lessons can apply to other metagames as well. These are lessons from my own perspective, and they are primarily about maintaining a winning mentality. If you want specific strategy advice, do check out the Strategy section on the dominionstrategy wiki or other good resources like the Dominion Discord channel. (Yeah, yeah, I have to plug it once in a while so it stays alive)

http://wiki.dominionstrategy.com/index.php/Strategy
https://discord.gg/6Pveru9

A quick note about Simulations: I don’t use them, but they are certainly a tool that Dominion players should keep in mind. If you want to reach a high level at the game, it will suffice to learn basic lessons from sims, such as which Big Money strategies are good on dead boards and which simple engines beat others. The reason I bring sims up at all is because using them falls under the category of reflective thinking, so if you are a mathematically minded person, this could be up your alley. My one warning is not to take sim results as gospel, as it’s a rare game of Dominion where other factors aren’t in play besides the ones you analyzed.

Things a Top Player Does (Or at Least I do)
1. Play less and be careful when you play. Yeah, play the game less. Odds are, you got to where you are by playing lots of games and learning how all the cards work, so this might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s one of the secrets to my success. I went from playing 10-20 games a day to playing 1-5 on average, taking breaks in-between, and saw considerable growth. I’m not a scientist, but I believe there are some key reasons this matters.
a) I reiterate: take breaks. Don’t play a zillion games in a row.
b) Auto-piloting. Even the best players aren’t “on” in every game they play. Maybe you start getting sleepy, maybe your mind wanders, and maybe you get fixated on playing certain sequences of cards without considering other options. The best way to avoid auto-piloting is to play less. You’re only human; you can’t play optimally every time.
c) Don’t play ranked games when you’re sick, tired, stressed, or under any other condition that might affect your play. If playing Dominion is therapeutic for you, I’m not here to judge, but you will do yourself a service by playing unranked or Bot games. Maybe ask a friend or someone on Discord if they want to play. This might seem like obvious advice, but I’m guilty of it myself: one time I even showed up for a tournament match with a death flu. It went really, really poorly.
d) Taking an extended break and returning with a fresh mentality can do wonders. I recently took about one week, maybe more, off the game and came back with my hottest win streak ever. I saw combos I had never even thought about before. Maybe it was all in my head, sure, but I believe I was in a rut with the game. When you find yourself in a similar slump, consider the benefits of getting a fresh set of eyes.

2. Look for your mistakes and figure out what you could have done better. Do this every time you lose, and do it when you won but felt shaky. You don’t have to read the log line by line and scan for every single mistake (Though that will be hugely beneficial to you) but you do need to be AWARE of why you lost a game or won it less efficiently than you could have. If you don’t want to take my word for it, take the word of Armada (the current top Super Smash Bros. Melee player). After every tournament, he watches all of his matches and some of others’ back and looks for improvements (often on stream so others can give input). This is a common practice among the best players in pretty much every game out there, and it’s ultimately very logical stuff.

a. One approach I like to take is to answer a simple question: Where did I go wrong? See if you can find the exact turn. You might be thinking, “it’s around turn 12 when I got a Gold instead of a Duchy, so I didn’t have enough points.” Sometimes it’s that simple, but usually it isn’t. Try to think several steps BACK, the reverse of how chess masters think several steps FORWARD. What got you in the position of making that Gold mistake? Often, this process can take you all the way back to your opening. You don’t have a time machine and you can’t fix what you did, but when you inevitably run up against a similar situation, your brain will have a better idea what to do.
b. Don’t blame bad luck. It happens and there’s nothing you can do about it, but I would venture that 9 times out of 10, you still made some mistake prior to the bad luck event or a mistake after the bad luck that made things worse. If you got shafted during a game, ask yourself instead: is there something I could have done to make this better? Really grasp at straws if you need to.

3. Don’t underestimate anyone. Sure, maybe you got matched against a guy 40 levels below you and now think your silly Duchess-Oasis rush is going to win. Maybe it even will, but if you won that game you did nothing to improve as a player. Even good players play poorly, and playing against bad plays is just as important as playing against good ones. Also don’t assume your opponent is going to miss a high-level tactic; you can’t magically make them ignore a pile-out or ignore a key card. The reason I’m bringing this up is because I do it all the time—we all do. We get fixated on irrelevant factors like level numbers and miss the fact that any player can play the same cards we do or play around their draws better than we do. If you see a silly experimental strategy, consider playing it afterward in an unranked game, but don’t try it on ranked mode unless you are okay with potentially losing the game.

4. Play your Opponent’s turn mentally. I have a bad habit of talking to myself and narrating my decisions, which drives my wife crazy. Maybe you do this in your head. At first, I only did this for my own thought process, but after a while I realized that understanding my opponent was equally important and I started asking what I would do in the other position. When your opponent is at a decision point, ask yourself what they should do, take mental note of what they actually do, and then ask yourself if any defied expectations seemed better than you thought (often this is easier to tell after a game). Reading your opponent is an art, but it’s helpful because you effectively get to think through each game from two different perspectives at a time. Be generous and recognize when your opponent makes a good play—maybe you’ll use it in the future. The most obvious benefit of watching your opponent is that you become more cognizant of what his deck can do. For instance, if they have 5 Markets, you should be aware that they have six Buys, so leaving an easy pile-out for them is not advisable. However, it’s just as important to get a feel for how other players make choices so you can look for improvements in your own play.

5. You aren’t the best, even if the numbers say you’re the best—getting cocky and putting all the importance in scores is going to make you fall hard and feel terrible when you start playing poorly because of it. There is always room to improve, so don’t assume that having some internet points automatically makes you a good player. I learn new things about this game all the time, and I’ve been playing it a criminal amount of time. Improving at Dominion is a process that doesn’t end because there is simply too much to consider.

6. Finally, when you watch other good players play, don’t do it passively. This is like playing your opponent’s turn in stereo: 3 different perspectives are at work, and you can learn from them all. Personally, I don’t watch other players much anymore myself, but if I truly cared about reaching #1, this is something I would try and do more often.

Conclusion
I hope if you read this it helped you think about playing Dominion better, and if you knew everything I said, that’s cool too. Remember that you are human; you make mistakes and are subject to any number of vices or outside factors that can hurt your gameplay. Your opponents are human, too, and the best ones will be improving in their own ways at the same time you are. Don’t take your current knowledge for granted!

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Counterfeit Copies of Dominion 2nd Edition

Jay from Rio Grande Games released a statement that counterfeit copies of Dominion 2nd Edition are out there. Here is the complete statement:

We have recently learned that counterfeit copies of the game are being distributed via Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon service.  We have purchased confirmed counterfeit copies of the game from the following third-party retailers on Amazon:

FastnBest LLC
Daily Deals Shop (NO TAX)
Tax Free Tech
Speedybuyllc

Of course, more may show up and we will continue to monitor this situation. If you bought a counterfeit version of the Dominion 2nd edition game, we encourage you to return it to Amazon for a refund – and hope you will buy another from a reputable retailer. Of course, most sellers are selling legit games, including, of course, Amazon itself. For those who are uncertain if the game they bought is a counterfeit, there are two obvious differences. The counterfeit game has a VERY badly made plastic inlay with crumpled in the plastic and the artists names on the cards are not white, but tend toward orange and red. If your game has this, it is counterfeit.

Jay at Rio Grande Games

Donald X. also commented on the forum that he believes another way to tell legit copies from fakes is that the fakes are likely bendy.

Next week, will be the official start of Game Analysis. Please join us tomorrow for a special guest article and Friday for our first podcast.

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Dominion Strategy is Back!

More content is coming to the DominionStrategy blog!

Quite a few years have passed since this blog started, and unfortunately, there has been a while without really any substantial posts or updates.  However, the DominionStrategy blog has come under new management and our new administrator, Beyond Awesome, is assembling a team of writers and Dominion experts to bring weekly content to the blog for new and veteran players alike.

Our tentative schedule is currently:

  • Mondays: Dominion 101 – a weekly column with advice geared toward new players, to help them get up to speed on Dominion strategy
  • Wednesdays: Game Analysis – we look at a particularly interesting game, and dissect it
  • Thursdays: Experts Corner – a weekly guest column where we invite a high-level Dominion player to share their experience with articles geared toward veteran players
  • Friday: The Outpost – A podcast hosted by Beyond Awesome and Seprix, discussing the latest Dominion news and strategy

Also, keep your eyes out for previews of the upcoming expansion Nocturne.

We hope you enjoy the new blog!

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2016 DominionStrategy Championship

The signups for the annual DominionStrategy Championship are open! The fourth annual event will be starting October 3rd and you can sign up until September 30th.

The only requirement to play is access to a (free) Dominion Online account from Making Fun. Regardless of whether you’re aspiring to be crowned the next DS Champion or you just like playing Dominion, this is a great chance to play the very best and have fun with the DS community.

The tournament will be single elimination, each match consisting of up to seven games (first to 4). The winner of each match will move on to the next round. Participants will be expected to complete one match per week until they are eliminated. There will be a Losers’ Bracket available which will be optional for eliminated players that would like to continue playing. For further information, you can check out the rules.

We hope to see you all there!

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Dominion League Championship Match Livestream – with Donald X. commentating!

This Saturday at 16:00 UTC / 11:00 AM EST, the Dominion League’s Championship match will be livestreamed, featuring Donald X., creator of Dominion, as a commentator.

The contestants for the twelfth Champion match are Stef and Mic Qsenoch, the only two people who ever won a Championship match so far. Due to the regular League standings, Mic Qsenoch needs to win five out of the six played matches, whereas Stef has to win only 1.5 games to claim the title.

Regardless of the results, we’ll be seeing the complete six games. Donald X. will be accompanied by SCSN, the third place finisher in the League, as co-commentator. You will find the broadcast here (February 13, 2016 at 16:00 UTC / 11:00 AM EST):

www.twitch.tv/dominionstreams

You can also find the broadcast recorded using the same link if you can not catch the action live.

If you have further questions, you can ask them here or post in this thread.

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The month of Alt-VP : Feodum

In this article series I will explore the so called Alt-VP or Alternate Victory Point cards. I will analyze simple decks that use Alt-VP as their win condition and how well they fare against baseline strategies. I will also try to find (near) optimal strategies for the mirror match. 

Week 5 : Feodum

Feodum

Most of the Alt-VP cards are worth going for if you can get them up to 4 VP. This means you’re going to need at least 12 Silver in your deck which is a lot of junk, especially for an engine. It’s perfect for a Slog with some kind of Silver gainer (Jack of All Trades or Amulet). Today we’re going to use the ultimate enabler, Masterpiece. Here are the buy rules for the Masterpiece/Feodum bot (evaluated from top to bottom for each buy):

  • buy Feodum when you have 21 or more Silver
  • buy Province when you have 21 or more Silver
  • buy Duchy when you have 21 or more Silver
  • buy Estate when you have 21 or more Silver
  • buy Masterpiece with $5 or more
  • buy Silver

Here’s how it fares vs a Smithy Big Money strategy (which buys 1 Smithy, Treasures and Provinces)

feodum

It’s a hopeless battle for the poor Smithy. It spends $8 to get 6VP while the Feodum player only needs to spend $4 to get 7VP. Masterpiece/Feodum wins very close to 100% of games. This strategy is so strong that it even beats strong engines. Its only rivals are probably mega turn engines with Goons. As an example let’s let it fight against a Fishing Village/Wharf mega turn engine:

feodum2

Feodum wins a whopping 80% of matches vs the engine.

When a strategy is so dominant the game often turns into a mirror match. It’s pretty obvious that winning the Feodum split is going to be important. Here are the buy rules for the best mirror bot:

  • buy Feodum when there are 8 or less Silver in the supply
  • Masterpiece with $5 or more (if there are still Silver left in the supply)
  • buy Province if you already have Feodum
  • buy Duchy if you already have Feodum
  • buy Estate if you already have Feodum
  • buy Silver

feodum 3

The mirror bot wins 60% of games versus the original bot. It surprised me that winning the Feodum split gives only a small advantage, but getting lots of Silver first will allow easier access to Province which are going to be worth as much VP as Feodum in a mirror match (40 Silver split in 2 means 6VP Feodum).

Conclusions

This combo is going to dominate on the majority of boards, but losing the Feodum split in the mirror is not the end of the world.

I will be taking requests for future articles, so feel free to send me a message (Geronimoo on the forum).

(these bots have been incorporated in the latest version of the simulator)

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The month of Alt-VP : Silk Road

In this article series I will explore the so called Alt-VP or Alternate Victory Point cards. I will analyze simple decks that use Alt-VP as their win condition and how well they fare against baseline strategies. I will also try to find (near) optimal strategies for the mirror match. 

Week 4 : Silk Road

375px-Silk_Road

Silk Road doesn’t need much support to be awesome. Any green card in the kingdom will enable it. Even the lowly Great Hall. Today I’ll examine Island as an enabler. We won’t be using any other kingdom cards to keep things simple. Let’s let it fight against Smithy Big Money (which buys 1 Smithy, Treasures and Provinces)

silk

Island/Silk Road wins 69% of games! Here are the buy rules for the optimal bot (evaluated from top to bottom for each buy):

  • buy Silk Road when you have 5 more Islands than Silk Road
  • buy Island
  • buy Silk Road
  • buy Duchy
  • buy Estate if there are 4 or less Silk Roads left in the supply
  • buy Silver

Notice that this bot starts greening from the first turn and hardly builds economy. I expected this kind of strategy wants to buy Copper, but the simulations suggest otherwise. Also this bot shouldn’t buy Province because emptying the Province pile fast enough wins the game for the Smithy deck. You want the game to drag on to maximize Silk Roads.

Now we look at the mirror match where both players go for Silk Roads.

silk 2

After a few iterations I came to this optimal and very simple bot for the mirror:

  • Open Island/Silver
  • buy Silk Road
  • buy Duchy
  • buy Island
  • buy Estate if there are 4 or less Silk Roads left in the supply
  • buy Silver
  • buy Copper

As was expected you want to rush the Silk Roads as soon as possible and turn 3 is really soon. Contrary to the previous deck, this one wants Copper. It wins 75% vs the original non-rushing bot.

Lessons learned: don’t help your opponent by buying cards he wants to pile out as fast as possible; and you don’t want a lot of economy building if your goal cards cost $4 or less.

Join me next week when I build a Masterpiece.

(these bots have been incorporated in the latest version of the simulator)

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