Multiplayer series, part 3: Deciding on a Plan

This is the third part in a series of four articles written by Polk5440. The series studies games of Dominion with three or more players and how they differ from games with just two players.

 

Think about how you begin a game of Dominion. Before you even take your first turn, usually you spend a couple of moments perusing the kingdom, deciding on a general strategy, and what cards might be worth buying. How do you decide what your deck will look like? What’s your plan for the game?

 

2P Considerations

With one opponent in a two-player game, the decision process is usually pretty straightforward: Pick the strategy that gives you the best deck if you were able to build it uncontested. That is, strategize without thinking about how an opponent may get too many of the same cards you want.

Why is this the case? If your opponent does something different than you, then either you can think “oh, no! What have I done?!” or you can proceed with gusto toward executing your strategy and fulfilling your destiny of Dominion domination. As your armchair advisor, I say you should have confidence in yourself and do the latter.

Alternatively, suppose you both decide to do the same thing. Well, now you are competing for the same cards. If you need a lot of copies of key cards, you might not get as many as you want — even if you react to what your opponent does during the game.  

Does that mean when you see your opponent going for the same cards you are that you should give up on your initial plan and start doing something else? NO. By doing that, you let your opponent successfully implement the winning strategy, unimpeded. By trying to switch strategies, yes, the game will be over faster, but it will be over faster because you will lose.

In conclusion, with two players, you can gauge the power level of a potential deck by how well that deck-building strategy performs uncontested.

 

How it changes with more players

In games with more than two people, the dynamic is more complex and this simplistic approach won’t work anymore. In the same game, one player can contest the best uncontested strategy, but another player can do something completely different. So the best uncontested strategy can both be contested and losing.

This dynamic makes multiplayer games tougher to win; what other players decide to do can determine whether you win or lose. If you are used to two player games, this may be jarring: Two player games are much more a test of skill of those two players than a multiplayer game is a test of the relative skill of those players. In addition to luck of the draw, and more players to compete and win against (so you expect to win a lower percentage of games), what other players decide to do or strategies they pursue can influence whether you win or lose.

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Combo video: Salt the Earth/Baths

 This video was made by RTT

Salt_the_EarthDigital

BathsDigital

Without any support, the “rush” strategy of Salt the Earth doesn’t do very well — Salting a Province with $4 and buying a Silver on $3 gets easily outscored by most other strategies before the game is over, but Baths changes things quite a bit. Salting a Province now nets 3 VP tokens instead of just one, so you can end the game around turn 11-12 with about 24 VP.

If you’ve never seen this before, you might find yourself losing to this strategy before you can make anything meaningful happen. This video goes into detail about how to play this combo and how to play against it. If properly contested, most strategies with any decent support should prevail against Salt the Earth/Baths.

Counterplay options include:

– Contesting Baths points, while using Salt the Earth to trash an Estate for extra VP tokens

– $3-$4 cost cards that allow for a quick Province or two

 

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Multiplayer series, part 2: Card Strength

This is the second part in a series of articles written by Polk5440. The series studies games of Dominion with three or more players and how they differ from games with just two players.

More Players, More Chances

Some cards get better with more players because their effects have more chances to hit. For example, gaining potentially 2, 3, 4, or 5 excellent cards with Jester or multiple Treasures with Noble Brigand can accelerate your deck quickly. In the other direction, Tournament actually becomes weaker with more players because there are more opponents who may reveal a Province (blocking Tournament’s on-play effect) and more competition for Prizes.

 

Stacked Attacks

Most attack cards’ effects get better with more players because they stack and potentially more copies of the card can be played per turn. For example, with 4 players, if every player has one Witch, you could get up to 3 Curses instead of one by the end of the turn. Discard attacks like Militia don’t truly stack because once you discard down to 3 cards in hand, the damage is done; however, they are more likely to be played consistently if everyone buys a copy, which can make them feel more oppressive. Pirate Ship powers up more consistently with more players, and the increased frequency of attacking can make treasure-based decks completely infeasible. Torturer, Ambassador, Mountebank, and their relatives (while certainly powerful cards in two player Dominion) can turn a multiplayer game into a slog even if there are strong anti-junking cards in the kingdom.

There are two ways of handling that incoming junk: deal with it once it’s in your deck or prevent it from entering your deck in the first place. While trashing is an effective way of dealing with the incoming junk no matter the number of players, with more players most trashing cards are less effective at preventing your deck from being bogged down early in the game, and thus are a little weaker. Lookout can still only trash one card a turn; Trade Route can only trash one card a turn; Sentry can only trash up to two cards a turn.

This may be fast enough in a lot of two-player kingdoms where you are only getting one piece of junk a turn early on, but it can be too slow with several players dishing them out each turn. You can buy more copies of trashing cards to provide your deck with more trashing capacity, but that comes at the expense of attacking others or building your deck’s draw capacity or economy.

 

Defense

Because many attacks’ effects stack, defensive cards like Moat, Watchtower, and Guardian are much better with more players because they provide defense against any number of attacks. While the number of cards Sentry can trash per turn is capped, the reaction on Moat doesn’t wear out — its reaction prevents you from suffering the effect of any number of attacks on a given turn as long as you have it in hand.

Additionally, with more opponents you are probably going to be attacked more consistently; this also makes defensive cards better. For example, with four players, you have three opponents who might play a Witch when you have a Moat in hand instead of just one opponent who might play a Witch in a two player game.

 

Example: Moat and Witch

 

To see how cards’ relative power levels depend on the number of players, consider Moat and Witch. They both draw two cards, so that ability is a wash. The real comparison is between the ability to dole out a Curse to an ability to block incoming Curses.

In two player games, Witch is an absolute powerhouse and Moat is a weak card; often, Witch is a must-buy and Moat is ignored.

Let’s put a little evidence toward this claim with a simple simulation of the head-to-head match up of a player who only buys Witches versus a player who only buys Moats.

The strategies simulated are as follows: The Witch-only player buys two Witches; the first one as soon as possible, the second one on the next $5. The Moat-only player opens Moat-Silver, buys a second Moat on $2 or when there are 10 Treasures in the deck (otherwise buys Silver), and continues to buy Moat on $2 up to 5 total Moats in the deck.

2pgraph

Buying only Witch absolutely smokes buying only Moat. Moat’s defense is not a guarantee against infiltration; those 10 Curses will find their way into the Moat player’s deck eventually, ruining the deck’s potential to score.

Tweaking the buy rules doesn’t change the simulation very much, though you can play around with these strategies yourself“It’s OK to ignore Moat” is an early lesson learned when becoming more competitive at two-player Dominion.

This may surprise some players, though. Blocking all incoming attacks seems so powerful. How could it not be good? That intuition does not come from nothing; Moat’s defense CAN BE strong… in games with four players.

4pgraph

Using the exact same buy rules as before, but just adding two more players playing the Witch only strategy results in the Moat only player winning nearly half of the games.

The Moat player can actually improve to better than 50% win rate versus three Witch only players by opening Moat-Moat instead of Moat-Silver, and there are probably tweaks to when additional Moats are purchased that can be made to improve the Moat only strategy even more. Conversely, there is not much the Witch only players can do to improve their win rate, except give up playing a Witch only strategy and buy Moat, as well.

What is going on here? Moat is at its best when it’s able to block multiple stacking attacks at once. As mentioned in the previous section, multiplayer games with junking attacks like Witch are basically exactly this scenario.

There are a couple of other things going on, as well. Players playing only Witch are ALSO playing against players playing only Witch, so they are also being slowed down by gaining Curses. This doesn’t happen with two players. This means the Witch players are slowed down and the Moat player is not destined to get all of the Curses. While Moat may not create an impermeable defense, Curses now go to other players, too. The players playing only Witch may even get MORE Curses than if the Moat player wasn’t even in the game. (Remember, more players means more Curses are available per person.)

While this is not a recommendation to buy only Witch or only Moat in any game (just to be clear: it’s definitely not), this is an illustration of how the relative power levels of cards do depend on the number of players, and intuition built in one context (two players) may not carry over into another (four or more players).

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Reader Survey and Intro to Multiplayer Article Series

A couple of things this week for you: First, we’d like to hear from you, the readers of this blog, about what kinds of content you’d like to see. Recently we’ve tried to post a few different types of articles and content, but we want to know what your favorite things are and what are the things you would rather not see. Any type of feedback is welcome, so please let us know what you want so we can publish things that you will enjoy more!

Click here to take the survey

 

Next, we’ll give an introduction to a series written by Polk5440, about games of Dominion with more than two players. While most advise in articles you’ll see here is specific to games with two players, the articles you’ll see coming up will explore the changes you’ll make in a game with more players. As the articles in this series are still being edited at this stage, feedback on what you’d like to see in this series is welcome as well.


 

Over the course of a few weeks we’ll explore how the number of players affects not only the rules of the game, but the relative strengths of the cards, and the best deck-building strategies.

 

While Online Dominion primarily hosts two player games, Dominion is a flexible game that can handle anywhere from two to six players, though the sweet spot is two to four players. In fact, before Intrigue, Dominion was billed as two to four players only. If you have a party of 5 or 6, while you might have a better social time all participating in the same game, a better Dominion experience may be had by splitting the table up into two separate games, each playing with their own kingdom. For the second game of the night, just change seats; no new kingdom set-up is required!

Part I: The Rules

If you are reading this, you are probably the one setting up the game at home and explaining the rules, so let’s review what changes based on the number of players.

 

The Setup

The number of cards that go in each supply pile vary. Note that playing Dominion with three or more players requires two or more friends.

 

Number of Cards to Put in the Supply Pile

2 Players 3 Players 4 Players 5 Players 6 Players
Provinces 8 12 12 15 18
All Other Victory Cards 8 12 12 12 12
Curses 10 20 30 40 50
Ruins 10 20 30 40 50


When playing with 5 or 6 players, double the Copper, Silver, and Gold piles.

Interestingly, the number of cards per player is not constant. When more people play, fewer kingdom cards per person are available to gain. Most supply piles have a fixed number of cards (usually 10), but this relationship of card per player also holds true for the Victory card piles. For example, there are 4 Provinces per person for 2 and 3 player games, but only 3 Provinces per person for 4-6 player games. There is one big exception: more players equals more junk per person. There are 5 Curses and 5 Ruins per person in a two player game, but this scales up to over 8 Curses and 8 Ruins per person for a 6 player game! The changing number of cards available per person can affect both how a card plays in practice and the overall deck building strategy one undertakes.

The End

The game ends when Provinces, Colonies, or any three supply piles are empty. When there are 5 or 6 players, the game ends when Provinces, Colonies, or any four supply piles are empty.

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Knights

This article was written by Jake.

Dame_SylviaDigital

Often, the presence of Knights in a Kingdom becomes the board’s central focus. This is because the Knights attack is potentially one of the most devastating in the game. Its potency revolves around something I’m going to call Knightmare.

The threat is of Knights attacks being played on you in excess of your capability to replace what they’re trashing. Unchecked, this faces us with a fundamental truth both of Dominion, and of life– almost everything that does anything for your turn costs between $3 and $6.

The concept of a Knightmare scenario is that you lose capability to deckbuild or score points in any relevant capacity, as you’re devoid of anything at that price point. In other words, your deck gets torn down faster than you can build it back up.

It’s also worth noting that Knightmare doesn’t necessarily happen to either player. It doesn’t need to for Knights to dictate the flow of the game. More often, Knights don’t actually force your opponent into a headlock, but apply pressure, pressure backed by the threat of Knightmare.

That threat requires counterplay, and the more real the threat is, the greater the pressure applied. In fact, deciding how Knights-Focused your buys and play need to be be should hinge on how feasible it is to force a player into a Knightmare, as this determines how oppressive Knights will be, regardless of whether or not it actually happens.

Here are a few considerations to that end:

 

How many Knights is it possible to play per turn?

Getting hit by one or two Knights attacks per turn is annoying, but usually not disruptive enough to require counterplay (though that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing to your opponent). Often, it’s sufficient to buy back important cards if they get trashed, or have some redundancy in your deck in the first place (like you would against Swindler).

Any way to exceed that signals that both players should focus their play on Knights, as Knightmare is probably a viable threat. If it’s possible to play three or more Knights in a turn (or just two, but reliably play them every turn), then it’s probably possible to lose cards faster than you can gain them.

Assuming it’s possible to play three or more per turn:

The Knights war is on, and the best defense is a good offense.

Keeping your deck able to hit $5 is a priority as long as there are Knights in the pile, as you’d like to both have Knights in your deck, and play Knights on your opponent.

Studies suggest that playing Knights is the most common cause of Knight death (next to smoking), so it’s normally advisable to keep track of how many Knights each player has left.

If your opponent has more Knights than you do, your priority is to keep them “in check” with Knights in your deck to keep them from snowballing an advantage. In that situation, choosing to trash your Knight to trash an opponent’s is almost always worth it.

If you have more Knights than your opponent, then playing them to do the snowballing yourself becomes more important.

It’s rare that your behavior would be significantly different in either situation (after all, the best defense to Knights is Knights), but those are your priorities for when it would be (like buying a Royal Carriage over another Knight) and for your general reading of the game state.

If one player does ease up on buying and playing Knights (usually a mistake), the other player should look to capitalize on this, pushing their opponent closer to Knightmare. In other words, you should only stop playing around Knights when they’re gone and you’ve done all you can, or when the game nears its final shuffle.

 

Knights opportunities to look out for:

-Any way at all to play more than two or more per turn. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s normally the level of Knights pressure required to meet or exceed an opponent’s ability to repair the damage.

Doublers like Royal Carriage and Throne Room are particularly powerful in this respect because of their ability to turn a single copy of a Knight into multiple attacks.

-An opponent who has thinned aggressively. They did almost ALL the thinning! But they missed a spot! Never fear, Dame Sylvia will help them get rid of that one pesky Gold they left in their deck! Then they have to buy coppers and you can laugh at them.

-Any way to gain or play Knights from the trash. The presence of anything resembling Lurker, Graverobber or Rogue significantly extends the period of the game when both players are required to play around Knights, as Knightmare is always a threat.

Necromancer is an interesting example as, in a Knights war, as it essentially functions as a second Knights pile.

 

Reasons the Knights attack will be weaker than normal, and possibly even ignorable:

-No draw. Without the ability to increase your hand size and still be able to play actions, your only options to see your Knights often enough to have an impact usually involve aggressive thinning, which we’ve addressed can be dangerous in a Knights game.

-No Village effect. Most of the Knights are terminal. Yes, there’s a village knight, but with any degree of counterplay, no single Knight should stay alive for very long, so she alone doesn’t enable a sustained Knights assault.

-Ability to ignore them (Guardian, Moat, Lighthouse, etc.). Obviously, that’s true of any attack, but as Knights relies on quantity of plays, even a single turn of immunity is a pretty big setback for the pressure Knights want to apply.

-Access to gainers like Workshop or Amulet. This is a soft defense, but if the name of a Knights game is trashing in excess of your opponent’s gaining potential, extra gains obviously slow that down (note this makes Dame Natalie fairly valuable in the thick of a Knights war). The most effective of these is probably Market Square.

-”Knightproof” payload. Cards outside their trash range like Fool’s Gold or Platinum can keep your deck viable in the face of Knights.

-Note on Fortress: Though a good card to pick up in a Knights game, it alone isn’t sufficient protection to justify ignoring Knights. It’s simply not reliable enough that you’ll have the option to trash Fortress whenever your opponent plays a Knight. Once your payload does get trashed, you’ve got this deck full of fortresses that don’t do anything and you have to buy coppers and everyone will laugh at you.

 

Notes on the Individual Knights:

At the risk of the remainder of this article reading like a Pokédex, a few words on the unique uses for each Knight, with one caveat: Knights tend not to stick around very long, so the only time which Knights you gain and play is significant is if that unique effect is likely to provide you an advantage after just one or two plays. There’s only one Knight that’s normally true for, so we’ll start with her:

 

-Dame Anna: On a board with no other way to thin cards, a couple of plays of Dame Anna gives that player a significant advantage. If she’s still in the pile, it’s often worth not removing a Knight from the top of the pile unless you have the ability to gain or trash the one beneath it too (though if there are other thinning options, then she’s much less valuable).

-Dame Molly and Sir Bailey: Fantastic on boards with a Knightmare threat, as they, enable playing more  than one Knight a turn with no external support required (note that gaining them doesn’t single-handedly pose a Knightmare threat, as they will eventually die).

-Sir Michael: Better the earlier in the game you get him. The reason being that any discard attack costing $5 potentially robs your opponent of a hand that could gain from that pile, particularly early on.

-Sir Martin: Sir Martin is a Knight. When Knights are good cards, Sir Martin is a good card. Sir Martin costs $4 instead of $5 because he has low self-esteem.

-Dame Josephine: Dame Josephine is a Knight. When Knights are good cards, Dame Josephine is a good card. There is other text on her card, but you probably won’t still have her by the end of the game, so it’s usually irrelevant.

-Sir Vander: He wants to die, so in a vacuum, he’s usually the Knight you choose to play if you know you might reveal an opponent’s Knight.

-Dame Natalie: As noted previously, she’s quite valuable in a proper Knights war due to her ability to gain fodder to slow down your opponent’s trashing attacks (as well as the extra economy a Workshop variant inherently provides).

-Sir Destry and Dame Sylvia: I’m lumping these two together because their benefits are fairly generic and self-explanatory. You’ll know when you want them.

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Embargo-a-Go-Go

This article was written by Jake.

EmbargoDigital

Often ignored, Embargo is considered by many a weak card. A lot of the time it is, but that’s to the extent that Dominion has strong cards and weak cards.
What Dominion really has are commonly applicable and rarely applicable cards, and the best players look out for all possible advantages available to them all the time.

First, Embargo’s limitations, why don’t you buy this more often?

Opportunity Cost:

  • Embargo costs $2 and a buy, so it usually could have been a silver, and often could have been a more generally applicable $2-cost like Pawn or Raze.
  • Even when gaining it instead of nothing, it has an opportunity cost for your shuffle and the turn you draw it– It doesn’t draw cards, and it costs an action to play (see Stop Card).

Symmetric Value for Asymmetric Cost:

  • We’re operating under the assumption that Embargo isn’t the best card for your turn (it usually isn’t)–  so you make a sub-optimal play to impact a pile equally for both yourself and your opponent. The idea that you gain a crucial card then Embargo the pile for an advantage implies that you gain the card, then draw your Embargo and play it BEFORE your opponent is able to gain a single copy. That’s assuming a lot from your draws (if your plan is to get lucky, you probably need a better plan).

When is Embargo Strong?

– When you want a silver, but only for like a minute: If there is a card at the $5-$6 price point you want to gain and play as many times as possible as quickly as possible (like Mountebank or Trading Post), you probably need better than coppers to get there. Often, once that card is in your deck, you’d rather not need to draw through a silver again so you can play the power card more often, potentially making Embargo’s disappearing act a benefit over Silver.

-When your opponent broadcasts their strategy with opening buys, AND there are other, similarly strong options.

Going for Embargo in this case is only a good idea if you can do something else that is about as strong or stronger if they get curses going for it.

Otherwise, positioning yourself to use said pile yourself is probably stronger than trying to Embargo it in time.

Potion Cards, Split Piles and alt VP are the most common examples of when this is a valid tactic.

-A card is strong and you have better means than your opponent of gaining it without buying it.

Note that this implies you Embargo the gainer as well so they can’t just do what you’re doing.

Getting the most out of Embargo:

The limiting factor on most strong Embargo plays is the amount of time between when you buy the Embargo and when you get to play it, so anything shortening that window increases its tactical viability.

Window-shortening examples:
-A thin deck/lots of draw (especially if you can gain it and play it that turn).
-Topdeck gaining (Royal Seal, Tracker, Develop, etc.)
-Summon

 

Embargo and endgame play:

Two plays available in every Embargo game are worth noting as reasons it might be worth gaining one the shuffle before you or your opponent start Greening to win the game:

Embargo Provinces: A strong play when you see your opponent has built a lower-payload deck, such as one that gains one province per turn, while you’re building to do more than that. Putting the token on Provinces before your opponent gets one can give you some breathing room to build more or outscore with alt VP like Vineyard or Silk Road.

Embargo Duchies: A strong play when you have the “initiative” (a de facto lead from buying the

first one) on Provinces, and you think you and your opponent will buy them at a similar pace. Making Duchies worse makes it much harder and more punishing for an opponent to try to overcome a Province lead.

 

Example game:

 

To bring this discussion away from theory and into practice, we examine the following game in which these concepts are applied to maximize one player’s advantage:

Screwyioux versus Opponent (who will remain unnamed):

embargoboard1

The initial read on the board suggests that Familiar will be somewhat dominant, especially with Obelisk on it. There are thinning options with Dismantle and Exorcist, which also increase the quality of your deck to reward plus buy and draw. However, without Embargo, the ability to thin a single card per turn is normally too weak to pass on Familiar.

Opponent opens  3-4 and buys Silver Potion.

Screwyioux opens 2-5 and buys Embargo Exorcist, deciding that  Familiar is weaker than his other options so long as he gets fewer curses from it than normal. Screwyioux draws and plays Embargo next turn. Not having gained Potion himself, he Embargoes the Familiar pile. The opponent gains a Familiar and a curse.

embargoboard2

By the end of the game, the board looks like this (Screwyioux often picking up an Embargo instead of a Silver): Notable plays in between include Screwyioux Embargoing Shanty Town as soon as the opponent buys a Royal Blacksmith, Opponent Embargoing Farmer’s Market after Screwyioux gains one (debatable whether or not this was a good idea) and Screwyioux Embargoing Duchies once he’d established a province lead.
In the end despite having ignored Familiar, Screwyioux’s deck has fewer curses, more reliability and higher payload than the opponent’s due to Embargo restricting build options.

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City Quarter

This article is a brief look into City Quarter from the Empires expansion. If you’d like a deeper dive into the card, check out this episode of Making Luck, a Dominion Podcast. If you like the podcast, feel free to check out this page for more information on the podcast, including links to iTunes, Google Play Music, and YouTube pages where you can listen; and forum links where you can interact with the creators of the podcast.

City_QuarterDigital

The effect of City Quarter has the potential to be extremely strong: +2 Actions, almost double your hand size. In the absence of discard attacks, you can play that card three times and you usually just draw your deck with lots of actions. Insane power. If you can build your deck so that you have almost exclusively Action cards in it, drawing your deck becomes very easy to do.

In reality, it’s not always that easy. You can also draw zero cards with your City Quarter, which feels really bad for a card you paid 8 debt to have. To justify its cost, the first City Quarter you play should be drawing you at least two cards consistently, which means that over half of your deck needs to be Action cards, plus you’d like to have a chance to have a City Quarter in your starting hand.

The most important thing you need to enable City Quarter is trashing. Trashing is important because it increases the percentage of Action cards in your deck, and it also increases the odds that you can find your City Quarters at the start of your turn. Most other cards can achieve this consistency by gaining a lot of copies of them and other Action cards, but this is more difficult with City Quarter because it is so expensive.

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Chariot Race

This article was written by Tracer.

Chariot_Race

The promise of Chariot Race is in its potential to provide points while not making your deck any worse. The somewhat random nature of what is on top of decks makes this promise inconsistent; but it is fulfilled often enough that ignoring the card completely is rarely viable as it can act as a significant source of points. While some turns will yield nothing from your Chariot Races due to an opponent’s topdecked expensive card (and as such relying on Chariot Race as a source of coins is inadvisable), there will usually also be turns where each Chariot Race played scores, and these turns are when you build a points advantage.

While Chariot Race often features prominently on boards, it is still important to have a functioning deck before gaining Chariot Races in high quantity. This means trashing down and then building draw, both of which will help with getting points from Chariot Race once you have them. If in the middle of that process you end up with a spare gain, a Chariot Race will often be preferable to say, a Silver. Once you have done this you can emphasize Chariot Race without risking falling behind, assuming there isn’t anything that can lead to explosive decks, such as Bridge or Horn of Plenty, in which case the speed of a megaturn from those will not allow Chariot Race to score enough points to be relevant.

Once you have Chariot Races, having them actually give points is the goal. The best way to do this is simply to increase the value of cards in deck through trashing less expensive ones and gaining more expensive ones, generally things that you would want to do anyways. This also has the benefit of defending against your opponent’s Chariot Races: just as you are more likely to reveal a more expensive card from your deck on your turn to score, they are more likely to reveal a more expensive card from your deck on their turn and be unable to do so. If you cannot obtain more expensive cards in quantity (for example if the draw present is Village and Moat), Chariot Race might not be an effective buy.

More directly, one can also look to control what is on top of each of the decks. For the opponent, attacks such as Scrying Pool are the most obvious way to do this: you can seek to leave a cheap card on top. Also notable are cards like Council Room, which, while not giving information about what is left on top of the opponent’s deck, can remove an expensive card that your Chariot Races cannot beat. For your own deck, both cards that directly manipulate the deck such as Courtyard or Sentry and also ones that give information about what is on top such as Ironmonger are relevant – in the former case to place an expensive card on top and in the latter to choose not to play a Chariot Race should a cheap one be on top. Also important are midturn gains – once you draw your deck you can potentially gain a Gold then play a Chariot Race which has a decent shot of hitting.

There will be times due to the nature of the card that one player will get luckier with Chariot Race and win the game because of it; however, a better deck or more clever player will more often than not be able to take advantage of Chariot Race to win.

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Duration Draw

This article was adapted from a forum post, originally by markusin.

Hireling

Being able to draw and subsequently play every card in your deck in a single turn lets you reach your deck’s full potential, maximizing your capability to gain cards and letting you play whatever attack cards you might have. However, guaranteeing that you will be able to draw your deck puts tough restrictions on your deck building.

If you want to guarantee you draw your deck, then you want to make sure there is no possible deck ordering that will prevent you from drawing your deck. You can ensure this by restricting the number of non-drawing cards you include in your deck to a number below your starting handsize. If your starting handsize is the default five, this really doesn’t give much room for adding non-drawing cards to your deck while still being sure you’ll draw your deck next turn.

Fortunately, you can get around this restriction by using “duration draw” effects that will increase your starting handsize, thereby leaving more room in your hand for the cards that don’t draw.

 

Definitions

“Stop cards” are cards which do not draw cards from your deck when played. Gold, Province, and Workshop are examples of stop cards.

“Duration draw” are cards which set up card draw that will be available to you at the start of a future turn. This includes but is not limited to duration cards that give card draw at the start of your turn like Caravan and Hireling.

Your “stop card capacity” (SCC) is the number of stop cards your entire deck can contain before you risk not drawing your entire deck in a turn. Even if you have 10 draw cards like Laboratory or Market in your deck and you only need one of them in your starting hand to draw your entire deck, so long as you have at least 5 non-drawing cards, or stop cards as I will call them throughout the rest of this article, you might end up having a starting hand of all 5 of them, unlikely though this may be. So long as there is a possible starting hand and deck ordering that prevents you from playing every other cards in your deck that turn, then you’ve exceeded your stop card capacity.

 

Impact of Duration Draw

You start the game with a starting handsize of 5 and a SCC of 4. You also start the game with 10 stop cards. So without deck thinning, realistically you will never get your number of stop cards to be within your SCC, which guarantees you draw your deck, without deck thinning.

A simple example of when you should be mindful of SCC is in a Bishop/Fortress game where you want to do nothing but trash Fortress with Bishop for the VP chips. With an SCC of 4, you can have up to 4 Bishops (which are stop cards) in your deck and still be guaranteed to draw and play them all. The moment you add a 5th Bishop, you run the risk of having a starting hand of all Bishops with no Fortresses to trash. If you and your opponent’s VP score were equal up to this point, then this opening hand of 5 Bishops pretty much makes you lose the game on the spot!

But duration draw changes this math by increasing your starting hand size and hence your SCC. Now imagine you have the same deck, but you have a Hireling in play. Now you have a starting hand of 6, and an SCC of 5. Hence, you can now gain a 5th Bishop and still be guaranteed to play all 5 Bishops, eventually overtaking the VP count of a player that can only support playing 4 Bishops a turn. So we see here that duration draw is a boost to the maximum potential of what your deck can do while not being at risk of failing to drawing every card. Being within your SCC can matter for less extreme examples as well, such as when you want to be sure you can play all your Grand Markets each turn, or even when you just want to be sure you find your single source of +buy in your deck.

When you reach a point where you have drawn your deck, pay attention to your SCC. If your number of stop cards is below your SCC, then you don’t have to hold back on gaining more stop cards out of fear that you won’t draw your deck next turn. If gaining a extra stop card or two like Gold will help you buy more cards next turn without impacting your deck’s perfect reliability in any way, then it’s likely that you should get that card. Investing in duration draw cards will let you stuff your deck with more stop cards before you sacrifice perfect reliability.

If you have already reached your SCC, you can still choose to nevertheless exceed your SCC by gaining more stop cards and risk not drawing your entire deck in order for a potentially bigger payoff. You however need to keep in mind that the likelihood of you failing to draw your deck increases the more stop cards you add relative to the size of your whole deck and your SCC

Haunted_WoodsWharf

Hireling is probably the simplest example of a card increasing your SCC, but it is by no means the only example. Playing Haunted Woods increases your next starting handsize to 8, and you can maintain this starting handsize by playing one copy of Haunted Woods each turn. Staggering Haunted Woods in this way increases your starting handsize by 3, but Haunted Woods is itself a stop card the turn it’s played that you’d have to draw in order to draw your entire deck. So effectively, staggering two copies of Haunted Woods gives you a net increase in SCC by 2. Playing more copies amplifies the effect. Staggering two copies of Wharf also gives a net increase of SCC by two, since Wharf is a draw card the turn it is played and doesn’t increase the raw number of stop cards in your deck.

 

AlchemistScheme

Expedition

The duration draw effect is not limited to Duration cards. Alchemists that you topdeck act as duration draw as well, with each topdecked Alchemist increasing your SCC by one. With Alchemist, it is especially important that you are mindful about your SCC because failing to draw your entire deck could mean you fail to draw your Potion, scattering your Alchemists and making you lose control of your deck. A Laboratory topdecked with Scheme works exactly the same way, and again you have high incentive to want to draw your entire deck in this scenario so that you find the Scheme that will topdeck the Laboratory again for the next turn. And of course, paying for the Expedition event increases your starting handsize and thus SCC.

 

Why Stop Card Capacity Matters

Stop cards can be very important towards winning the game, as they are often the most effective sources of money and VP.  The more stop cards you can draw in a turn, the more your deck can accomplish that turn. You want to be drawing as many stop cards as you can each turn, and being within your SCC lets you draw them all without fail. By increasing that SCC with duration draw effects, you increase the number stop cards you can play on your turn while still being certain that you’ll draw your entire deck.

Games where players slowly drain Provinces are likely to have players eventually exceed their SCC, so you’ll have to be aware of your risk of stalling once that point of the game is reached. However, games where you gain a Province or two then pile out the next turn, or at least threaten to, may never require that you exceed your SCC. Even if you have to exceed your SCC, that’s okay! Duration draw is still a big boost to your deck’s reliability even when they aren’t quite giving your deck perfect reliability.

 

Conclusion

More than just making it easier to line up your engine components, playing cards that let you start with a larger handsize increases the hard limit on the number of stop cards you can have in your deck before you aren’t guaranteed to draw your deck. Use this to your advantage towards building more powerful decks that maintain their reliability even as they add more stop cards.

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Combo: Night Watchman/Tunnel

 

Two weak cards. Combined they are a powerhouse. In the case of Night Watchman and Tunnel it’s not entirely clear if that’s true. Let’s find out.

It’s well established by the Dominion community that Dungeon and Tunnel are a great combination. Dungeon discards Tunnel for Gold and looks at 13 cards with each play to find Tunnel(s). The huge amount of deck cycling means you’re buying Provinces early and often. The deck also doesn’t really stall in the end game thanks to Dungeon’s filtering. It outperforms all Big Money decks and the weaker engine decks. It also has enough speed to keep up with the rush decks (like Ironworks/Gardens).

Night Watchman only looks at 5 cards but opening Tunnel/Night Watchman almost guarantees having a Gold before the first shuffle. On top of that, when you buy the Watchman he goes straight to your hand. Let’s simulate it to find out its matchup vs Dungeon/Tunnel.

NW vs Dungeon VP

Dungeon/Tunnel wins 80% of the games vs a mere 17% for Night Watchman/Tunnel. The average $ generated each turn is also interesting:

NW vs Dungeon $

Here’s the optimal game plan (buy rules need to be evaluated from top to bottom for each buy):

  • Province
  • Duchy when 6 or less Provinces left in the supply
  • Tunnel when 4 or less Provinces left in the supply
  • Estate when 2 or less Provinces left in the supply
  • Tunnel if you have equal or more Night Watchman
  • Night Watchman

Notice this deck never buys Gold or Silver (this would actually decrease the win rate).

Here’s the Dungeon/Tunnel Bot for reference:

  • Province
  • Duchy when 4 or less Provinces left in the supply
  • Tunnel when 4 or less Provinces left in the supply
  • Estate when 2 or less Provinces left in the supply
  • Dungeon if you have equal or more Tunnels
  • Tunnel
  • (Silver) -> probably never bought

Night Watchman/Tunnel’s strength/speed is comparable to Gear Big Money (one of the better Big Money variants). You shouldn’t try this strategy if there’s a moderate/strong engine or rush strategy available.

You can improve this deck by adding a strong attack (like Mountebank). Adding strong terminal draw (like Wharf) will also help. There’s an idea to incorporate it in an engine as payload, but that’s probably too cumbersome. NW/Tunnel doesn’t work very well in decks that draw a lot of cards because unlike other Tunnel enablers, NW doesn’t want you to actually draw your Tunnel, which is what makes this synergy strong. Night Watchman’s filter effect mimics trashing effects, so adding a trasher won’t help much.

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