Intrigue: Wishing Well

Wishing Well

Dominion: Intrigue

Wishing Well isn’t the best card at $3, but it isn’t quite the worst either.  Ideally, you’d like to play it with knowledge of what card you’re wishing for.  Outside of being an obsessive-compulsive deck-tracker, there’s not many ways to do this reliably past the early game.  Cards that you view with Spy get drawn by the Wishing Well instead of being wished for.  Scout or Apothecary is theoretically the best solution, but it’s often too difficult to pull off.  Apothecary works a little better than Scout: because you have to make up the hand size slot lost to Scout, Scout + Wishing Well + Wishing Well is basically having played a Laboratory, making it just too expensive and slow to get running.  Navigator + Wishing Well is even worse, since it requires a +2 Actions card.

Stashes are another obvious solution, but in practice it’s too hard to align the Wishing Well with the Stashes.  More rarely, if you top-decked multiple cards during the turn—for instance, playing two Ironworks to gain two cards, using Watchtower to place them both on top of your deck—then Wishing Well can work.  And once in a great while, if you have exactly three cards left in your draw deck, then you can play Pearl Diver to draw the top card and inspect the bottom card.  Leave it on the bottom; the Wishing Well will then draw the second card, and you can wish for the last card.

Interestingly, Wishing Well is often able to wish successfully when responding to an opponent’s attack.  Secret Chamber’s reaction is beautifully suited for Wishing Well; if your opponent plays an attack that you can respond to with Secret Chamber, then you gain knowledge of the top two cards of your deck.  Wishing Well draws the first and wishes for the second.  Alternatively, Wishing Well itself is a perfect counter to Ghost Ship (and more rarely, multiple Bureaucrats played against you).

In general, though, you should usually play the Wishing Well aspirationally, by wishing for the cards you want that will make a meaningful difference in your hand.  This is usually the only way you can justify taking the Wishing Well over the Silver.  For example: trying to execute Black Market / Tactician, but didn’t draw another Tactician in your Tactician hand?  Wish for the Tactician, even if it’s a low probability of success.  Of course, you should back these aspirations with some knowledge of your draw deck, but it’s usually much more important to draw one particular card rather than the card most likely to be drawn.  (The exception is when you have Vault/Secret Chamber, and your goal is to make your hand as big as possible.  Then you should generally wish for the most likely candidate.)

Accordingly, Wishing Well is most powerful in the early game: it’s easy to track what is in your deck, and it helps alleviate the problems of bad opening draws.  If you draw 3 Estates with your Wishing Well, wish for your Steward or Ambassador.  If you draw Baron and 3 Coppers, wish for the Estate.  If you have a spare Action this turn and you know you have two terminal actions left in your 5-card deck, wish for one of them so that they hopefully don’t conflict with each other.

Some decks are particularly dependent on drawing certain cards, to the point where a Silver may actually hurt rather than help the combo.  The aforementioned Black Market/Tactician is one; Minion is another, because Minion decks rely heavily on drawing other Minions, whereas Silvers would just be discarded anyway.  With Treasure Map, it goes without saying that if you draw one you should wish for the other.  Repeatedly wishing for Conspirators is also one of the most effective ways to run a Conspirator chain.  And if you open Coppersmith, then Wishing Well is far superior to a Silver because it can help you gain extra Coppers early.

Finally, some cards work best with failed Wishing Well wishes.  Pawn is probably the most useful; by previewing the card you draw, you can decide whether it’s worth drawing, and if so, whether you need the +1 Action.  Native Village‘s draw becomes more informed, saving you from accidentally forcing your Platinum to go native.  You can also mitigate the risk of Upgrade and Lookout by seeing if the card on top of your deck is one you want to trash.  Knowing the top card of your deck is also helpful if you plan to Cellar exactly one card, or if you’re hesitant about Warehousing.  And the mid-game Steward choice between +2 Cards and +$2 becomes a little easier if you know the top card of your deck; likewise, you are ever-so-slightly more informed about whether to play a blind card-drawing Action like Smithy without +Actions.

All in all, there are ways to exploit Wishing Well’s ability to make it somewhat more like a Laboratory.  But spending too much effort is probably not worth it; when there are important $4’s and $5’s, I’ll usually take the Silver instead.

Works with:

  • Cards that help identify the top cards of your deck for the Wishing Well (Scout, Apothecary, Watchtower, Pearl Diver, Stash, Secret Chamber as a Reaction)
  • Vault
  • Action chains that depend heavily on drawing a particular card (e.g., Black Market/Tactician, Minion, Treasure Map, Coppersmith)
  • Opponents’ Ghost Ships (or more rarely, multiple Bureaucrats)
  • Actions where seeing the top card of your deck is helpful (Pawn, Native Village, Upgrade, Lookout, Cellar, Warehouse, Steward, +Cards without +Actions)
  • Conspirator / Peddler (sample game where Great Halls, Wishing Wells, and Goons combine for Peddlers)

Conflicts with:

  • Silver, which is usually superior
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16 Responses to Intrigue: Wishing Well

  1. guided says:

    When Intrigue first came out, I kept trying to look for ways to get sure wishes (e.g. Scout), and I came to the conclusion that Wishing Well was simply a terrible card. And it’s true to an extent: I have never found a remotely good deck-building strategy that relies on certain Wishing Well draws.

    The epiphany came when I realized that Wishing Well can be pretty powerful when used to get likely rather than certain draws, or (as you mention) aspirational draws. One of the most dominant decks I have ever built was Ironworks/Wishing Well/Coppersmith/Worker’s Village, often using Ironworks to take a Copper (or a Wishing Well), using loose buys on Copper, and almost always wishing for Copper.

  2. cookie_monster_likes_coppers says:

    I think one key to using Wishing Well is the need to commit to the strategy beforehand – you have to decide at the start the one other card you’re going to purchase (ex., Conspirator) for the whole game. At that point, together with some card-counting, you have a cheap and probabilistic Laboratory.

    Alternatively, I think Wishing Well can serve a bit of the same role as Chancellor. It smooths out your early game (as stated in the OP), but declines in usefulness as the game progresses. You won’t want to rely on wishes too much in this case.

    It’s important also to note that Wishing Well has the best picture from Intrigue, and is still in the top 5% I think as Dominion matures and finds more munny to spend on artwork. The use of color and the content are both well-suited to the card concept. The rained-on evergreens together with the forlorn girl on the well depict the desperation of not having your gold when you need it along with the hope that you might find it should fortune smile upon you.

  3. Personman says:

    Wishing Well is the card about which my opinions have changed the most over time, and also the card I most disagree with your analysis of so far. At first, I hated it — it seemed like such a swingy, variance-inducing card. Then, over time I realized that it was much less random than it seemed, and I started having a lot of fun with it, going through my previous turns and figuring out what was most likely to be on top. Finally, I realized that this strategy, carried to its logical conclusion, makes Wishing Well one of the best cards in the game and also one of the most irritating, and now I ban it from non-league games that I play on isotropic.

    Your discard pile isn’t really hidden information. You always see what goes in. Just memorize it, or write it down, and build a deck without too terribly many different cards in it, and you can probably hit 80% on your Wishing Wells.

    Now, this isn’t very practical when playing with physical cards, and most play groups would either get angry at you or try to say that writing down you discard pile is cheating or something silly like that. But that’s exactly why I hate the card — it rewards something inherently frustrating and awful, and it’s really hard to draw the line between “remembering that I played my Gold last turn, so I won’t wish for that” and “remembering the exact composition of my deck and the last fifteen cards I played so that I get a wish for the last card in my deck right 100% of the time.”

    The real problem exists online. I’ve won a bunch of league games because I am willing to copy and paste every hand into a text file and write down everything I buy and always know my wishing well odds. It’s disgusting and it takes forever and it’s obviously the right thing to do and it makes me very sad.

    • Reyk says:

      “The real problem exists online. I’ve won a bunch of league games because I am willing to copy and paste every hand into a text file and write down everything I buy and always know my wishing well odds. It’s disgusting and it takes forever and it’s obviously the right thing to do and it makes me very sad.”

      Which is quite silly too. Are you still playing a game?
      It makes me wonder if you write down every curse etc. to count points. Very strange …

      • rrenaud says:

        Counting points is a lot easier. If there are no gardens, vineyards, etc, I can count points for everyone in a 4 player game with a bit of concentration. But knowing everything that I’ve bought it and played on this cycle is a lot harder than that.

        • Reyk says:

          I’m trying ot count them too, of course. But without taking notes.
          With gardens, islands, curses, vineyards in one play I’ll lose track and guess in the end.

    • theory says:

      It’s all about diminishing returns. I bet that I can estimate my next card about 80% as well as I could with perfect note-taking.

      More importantly, the expected value of a correct Wishing Well guess isn’t just about drawing probability. Even if you accurately identify that the most likely card in your deck is a Copper, getting a Copper from Wishing Well to go from $9 to $10 is basically useless. Wishing for a Silver, even if it is less likely, provides a much greater return.

      So I don’t think it overly rewards OCD note-taking, though it definitely does reward having some “deck sense”.

      • Curses says:

        After reading the possibilities of this card for your article, I’ve been much more proactive in building decks with them. I have been impressed with the card’s performance, particularly in action decks. Thanks!

    • Personman says:

      So I made the claim above that I could hit 80% with wishing wells. I was guessing at the time, so I decided to put it to the test. Here’s a game in which I built a pretty diverse deck (11 different cards, 6 of them one-ofs) and bought/ironworksed 7 wishing wells (though a few were near the end and probably didn’t matter). I played Wishing Well 39 times over the course of the game, and got it right 32 of those times, for a final percentage of 82% – looks like my guess was about right! I may have gotten very slightly more lucky this game than usual, but not by much – almost all of those successes were either forced (wishing for the bottom card of the deck) or wishing for something that was easily the most common thing left in my deck at that point.

      Lab is a very good card. A $3 80% lab is insane – and it’s better than an 80% lab, because you can explicitly *not* wish for something you really don’t want to draw, even if it’s the most likely thing. I’m starting to think that Wishing Well belongs in the top 10 cards, period, in terms of raw power level when used to its full potential.

      On somewhat related note, here’s a game where I built a really cool combo deck with wishing well – here my hit percentage was only 12/17, or 70%, but since my deck only had 9 cards in it most of the time, I was drawing the whole thing every turn even when I missed once or twice.

  4. wrynathan says:

    On a slightly less OCD note-taking.. er.. note, I’ve had good luck pairing Wishing Wells with Trading Posts. Trading Posts quickly turn your deck into a lot of silvers, which wishing wells are good at finding. Not the most glamorous deck in the world, but it’s a decent province-rusher.

  5. John Hawkins (Hawk) says:

    One thing that I’m not seeing a lot of discussion about, and with which I’ve had very good success using this card, is wishing for things you DON’T WANT in your next hand. Typically my reasoning with Wishing well goes like this:

    Is there a card that would transform this hand into a great hand, e.g. by allowing a gold or province purchase? Is that card at all likely or even possible to be on top?

    Is there a card that would really be annoying in my next hand? Is that card at all likely or even possible to be on top?

    Based on the relative impact for this hand or the next hand, and based on the probability of having that card at the top, I make my play. And in my experience this is very very powerful.

    • theory says:

      That’s exactly what I meant by aspirational wishes. Instead of wishing for what is most likely, you should wish for the card with the highest expected value. This might be either a Copper if you’re at $7, or a Victory card if you’re already at $8.

  6. ipofanes says:

    When I am the only one collecting WW, the card becomes sort of self-feeding as I successfully wish for it more often than not.

  7. Silverback says:

    I found Wishing Well to be kinda effective when combined with cards that care about the top of your deck:
    Wish for a card, that you don’t want to trash with Lookout or Loan. Wish for a card, that you don’t want to put on your Native Village.

  8. Roadkill says:

    I think it’s worth noting that with the addition of Cartographer, Wishing Well got a pretty decent boost. A Cartographer-based deck can become ridiculous in the presence of WW – it solves both the problem of knowing the next two cards in your deck, and provides another action with which to use WW.

  9. krs says:

    Here how I use Wishing Well sometimes. I’m not that good of a player but I found this helpful sometimes. If I have all that I need in your hand for this round I try to wish for a card that will hinder me in the next turn or that will cycle my deck faster.

    Here a “classic” example. My hand Baron, Estate, Estate, Coper and Wishing Well. I draw a cooper with my Wishing Well. Now I could wish for another cooper but it wont help me this hand. In my deck I have left 5 coopers and 1 Estate. My approach is to try to get rid of that estate so I will have a 5 cooper hand. Even if the chances are 1 in 6.

    Similar basic stuff. If you know your next card but it will help you more on your next turn that on this one. Guess it wrong and save it for your next turn.

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