The guiding principle behind effective use of Embargo is Embargoing cards that your opponents need more than you. It is always worthwhile to hurt your own deck so long as you hurt your opponents’ more.
For example, if you have an early lead in Golds, placing the Embargo token on the Golds will lead to a long, brutal, and unpleasant game where you will have a decided advantage. Likewise, Embargoing the Victory cards when you are in the lead (or plan on going for VP tokens) helps you win by lowering the overall number of Victory Points available.
Unlike most cards, there’s no particular set of cards that Embargo works best with. Rather, Embargo is especially powerful whenever an opponent is going for a specialized strategy that requires certain cards. For instance, if your opponent opens double Woodcutter with an eye towards the Gardens, Embargoes on the Gardens, Estates, and Woodcutters will be ruinous. (Note that this doesn’t work nearly as well if he goes Gardens with Workshops instead.) Against a Goons player, an Embargo on the Coppers stops him from “free” buys. A well-timed Embargo on the Dukes cripples players who over-invested in Duchies. Even a strategy as simple as Village/Smithy can be stopped in its tracks. And if you are concerned about your opponent rushing a 3-pile ending, Embargo can slow the game down enough for you to grab some VP.
A less strategic but equally valid concern is using Embargo on cards you simply don’t like. Goodbye, Pirate Ship! A meaner variant of this is Embargoing the Reaction cards (after you’ve picked some up, of course) so your Pirate Ships can ravage your opponents’ decks with impunity. Mwahaha!
Naturally, Embargo loses much of its effectiveness when Curse-giving attacks are present. However, opening with a $5 attack and Embargo can be deadly; for instance, if you Embargo the Witches before your opponent can get one, the Curses are almost guaranteed to split at least 7/3 or 8/2 even if he buys a Witch at the first opportunity.
As alluded to earlier, Embargo is also weak against Actions that gain cards. A truly desperate player can even use Talismans to at least receive fewer Curses. And of course, opponents with Watchtowers have nothing to fear from your Embargoes.
- Any set that encourages your opponent to adopt a predictable buying pattern
- Cards that gain cards (e.g., Hoard, Workshop, Feast, Remodel, Expand, Smugglers, Ironworks, Black Market, Mine, Upgrade, Treasure Map)
- Curse-giving attacks
Because I draw my Embargo with 4 Coppers, I know that I can buy Gold and effectively leapfrog Silver. So by Embargoing the Silvers, I slow him down dramatically if he can’t also get to an early $6 like me (and he doesn’t). Later on, I Embargo the Golds once I have a Gold advantage. These Embargo tokens end up slowing him down just enough for me to squeeze out a victory. (Note that because I trashed one fewer Estate, I can safely buy the second-to-last Province because I hold the tiebreaker.)