Minion is one of those game-warping cards, whose presence greatly changes the strategic landscape. Though not necessarily a must-buy, its availability forces players to either buy it or give serious thought to how to respond to it.
Minion’s primary strength comes from its glorious self-synergy. Like Caravan/Laboratory/Nobles, Minion is a card whose best complement is itself. But Minion one-ups those cards: handsize increasers need to pause every so often to pick up Treasures, but Minion is its own source of cash. When full-on into Minion mode, you should not need to stop buying Minions to get pesky Treasures like Gold that you’ll just end up discarding anyway.
Minion works very well with cheap non-terminal actions: e.g., Pawn, Conspirator, Fishing Village. Pawn is especially valuable to the Minion player because it allows a +Buy, something often missing from many high-money engines. The key is to avoid buying cards that will likely be discarded to the Minion anyway: this rules out Treasure as well as most terminal Actions. One—or at most two—is acceptable if it’s an important terminal Action, like Mountebank or Goons. (Or a Remodel/Expand, since you’ll probably need one to get rid of your initial Chapel/other trashing card.) Any more and it’s just a waste, even with +Actions.
Minion’s attack is also a good thing. Sometimes it benefits your opponents, but on average, you’d always prefer your opponents to have 4 cards than 5. The exception is Library/Watchtower, and of course, other Minion decks, which respond to Minion quite well.
Minion is much less effective when you can’t get rid of non-Minion cards. Without good trashing options, it’s much harder to hit that critical mass of 25% Minion density in your deck. Accordingly, the best way to counter Minions (other than your own Minions) is to load them down with Curses. Swindler is a good choice too, since you are likely to hit a Minion, which are conveniently priced to be Swindled into Duchies (or even better, Dukes).
Handsize-increasing cards like Caravan are a tossup. If your Minion strategy is meant as a hybrid, some Minion/some Treasure, then they aren’t very helpful since you’ll just find yourself discarding more cards to the Minion. But if your deck is hardcore Minion, then Caravans will just give you more Minions. (Though you definitely shouldn’t be buying Laboratory or other $5 Actions if more Minions are still available to purchase.)
As part of a hybrid strategy, Minion can work pretty well with Tactician and Library because of its ability to provide “invisible money”. And its discard/attack power is a good defensive response to Goons/Militia and other Minions.
Minion doesn’t play well with most combos, however. This is because your hand is so often going to be cut in size that you can’t afford the luxury of chaining together complex Action chains without buying them en masse, which of course, defeats the whole purpose of going Minions.
Minion players commonly face dilemmas early in the game. Should I discard my hand, drawing 4 and possibly missing out on $5 to get another all-important Minion? Or should I forsake the attack against my opponents? The answer is probably dependent on what kind of deck; if you and your opponents have been Chapeling into a thin, high-density deck, then your discard is likely to both hurt your opponents significantly as well as getting you to $5.
Special note regarding Throne Room and King’s Court: if you Throne Room a Minion, planning to both take $2 and discard, you should always discard first. This is because if you discard and draw 4 terrible cards, you have a choice of discarding or taking $2. Taking the $2 first prevents you from being able to make this decision.
On a side note: as powerful as this card is, I can’t get over its non-thematicness. What do Minions have to do with discarding and drawing? Wouldn’t your Goons and Militia be considered your Minions already? Even the picture doesn’t make any sense.
- Other Minions!
- Pawn, Festival
- Conspirator/Fishing Village/Warehouse/other cheap non-terminal actions
- Outpost, as Minion is likely able to salvage an otherwise poor hand (sample game)
- Opponents’ handsize-decreasing attacks
- Opponents with trimmed decks, since the discard-5-draw-4 power will be more likely to hurt
- Opponents’ Curse-giving attacks
- Opponents’ Swindlers
- Lack of good trashing to thin your deck
- Handsize increasers (usually)
- Treasure and Treasure-oriented cards, like Mine
- Terminal actions in general