Seaside: Ambassador

This article is intended as an introduction to Ambassador. For a more recently updated and advanced article on Ambassador, click here.


Dominion: Seaside

This is the card that a $5/$2 player hates seeing on the board more than any other.  Along with Chapel, Ambassador is one of Dominion’s two best openers.  The first couple of turns are critical: if you fall behind in “Estate tennis”, your deck will quickly crash and burn.

The most common Ambassador dilemma early on is drawing it with 3 Copper + 1 Estate.  Contrary to popular practice, Ambassadoring 2 Coppers (rather than 1 Estate) is the best play; deck-thinning is, at this point, more important than a marginal increase in your attack.  Moreover, Ambassadoring the Coppers decreases the chance your opponent will Ambassador you two Estates while increasing your own chances for the same.  Of course, it’s not a great move if you or your opponent are also relying on Moneylender/Coppersmith, but the point remains that you should almost always try to Ambassador two cards at a time in the early game.

In the midgame, you can start Ambassadoring early cards that have outstayed their welcome: your opponent will likely have little use for a late game Loan, Moneylender, or Chapel. If you have strong enough deck-drawing (perhaps your opponent foolishly passed up on buying an Ambassador), consider buying a Curse and using the Ambassador as a pseudo-Witch.

Like almost all attacks, Ambassador is great with Throne Room/King’s Court: just be sure not to give away all the copies of the card you are Ambassadoring! In addition, Ambassador is the rare attack that does not conflict with other attacks.  No matter when you play it, it is always dealing damage to your opponents.  Of course, you will draw hands where you don’t want to play the Ambassador, but it’s nice to have an attack that amplifies other attacks rather than cancelling them. It is especially powerful with Pirate Ship.

Ambassador is also a great defense, especially against opponents that opened with Mountebank, Witch, or Torturer.  That doesn’t mean that those cards aren’t important if Ambassador is available (if you’re Ambassadoring a Curse, you aren’t Ambassadoring something else), but it’s certainly a better defense than getting a Moat and crossing your fingers.

Keep an eye out for Ambassador’s unique game-ending ability: it’s often to your advantage to gift your opponent a Province or Colony in order to force the game to end on your turn.  (See, e.g., this game, where I win by gifting my opponent the last Colony instead of allowing him the chance to win with a lucky Tactician.)

Perhaps Ambassador’s greatest weakness is the dreaded Possessed Ambassador.  But even then, opening Ambassador isn’t dangerous so long as you have a way to get rid of your Ambassador (Remodel, Salvager, an opponent’s Bishop).  Indeed, stuffing your opponent with crap will probably keep him from Possessions and let you get first crack at them.

Works with:

  • Throne Room / King’s Court
  • Curse (sometimes)
  • Opponents’ Curse-giving attacks
  • Pirate Ship

Conflicts with:

  • Opponent’s Possession
  • Opponent’s Militia (somewhat, but not as much as with Chapel)
  • Chapel (somewhat; it’s viable to open Ambassador/Chapel, but probably not better than Silver/Chapel)
  • Gardens decks
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14 Responses to Seaside: Ambassador

  1. Reyk says:

    “Estate tennis” is really cool 😉
    Thx for the good work.

  2. guided says:

    I also love the phrase “Estate tennis”… brilliant!

    I do have to say though, recent research suggests Mountebank and Witch are the best openers, followed by the logjam of Trading Post, Chapel, and Ambassador that are all about equally good 😉

    I’d like to do some playtesting of Ambassador vs. Chapel at some point. My gut feeling is that Ambassador would win the head-to-head matchup when both cards are available.

    • guided says:

      Having played a bunch of Chapel vs. Ambassador games now (where neither player was allowed to buy any other Kingdom cards, and Colonies were ignored):

      1. Ambassador/Silver appears to have a slight edge over Chapel/Silver. Going first, Chapel will often (but not usually) win.

      2. Ambassador/Silver/Ambassador will beat Chapel/Silver a significant majority of the time, even if the Chapel player goes first. Typically the Ambassador player will get 5 Provinces, or at least 4 and one more Duchy than the Chapel player. When the Chapel player does win, it’s almost always be 1 or 2 Estates on a 4-4 Province split.

      3. Ambassador/Ambassador/Silver is a little better vs. Chapel than a single Ambassador, but not as good as buying the Silver before the 2nd Ambassador.

      • guided says:

        *by 1 or 2 Estates

        also, 4. When playing with 2 Ambassadors, it appears to be slightly better to Ambassador a single Estate rather than 2 Coppers, if by doing so you save enough coin to get to $3 or $6. This allows you to use your extra Ambassador to potentially throw 3 Estates over the fence instead of 2. It’s also better to keep the Copper you’re attacking with to preserve $8, and probably also to preserve $6.

        I do agree that when playing with a single Ambassador (against Chapel or otherwise) it is essentially always better to return 2 Coppers rather than 1 Estate, looking to return 2 Estates at once on a later hand.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Any solid proof that returning 2 coppers would be better?
    I don’t have counter evidence either, but I had a feeling that even with a single ambassador, you would have plenty chance to return 2 coppers if you want. It is thus better to get rid of the estates first. Also, this have the slight benefit that you may be able to buy something compatiable with the coppers.

    • guided says:

      Dumping 2 Coppers increases the chance that you’ll be able to dump 2 Estates at once later. With few exceptions, the goal is to remove every single Copper and Estate from your deck if you can, and dumping 2 cards at a time trims your deck twice as fast as dumping 1 card at a time.

      I don’t know about “solid proof”, but extensive experience makes me believe 2 Coppers is usually a stronger play than 1 Estate.

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t know; maybe you are right. The problem is, I never had this experience from my own maybe nor-so-extensive ambassador play. I did always ambassador the estate, but I never felt I had lost any ambassador race by that. For one thing, draw affects things quite a bit more, and it isn’t really that when you fell behind in the race, everything is lost.

        • guided says:

          It’s not a big deal one way or the other. In games where both players are using Ambassador, shuffle luck is probably going to matter more than whether you choose to dump 2 Coppers or 1 Estate. But, for my own part, I agree with theory on this one that 2 Coppers is usually the better play.

  4. david707 says:

    Hi, I was wondering whether it is better to open ambassador/silver then buy another ambassador before the next shuffle or to open ambassador/ambassador then buy treasures.

    • theory says:

      Like everything else in Dominion, it really depends.

      For starters, if your opponent didn’t get an Ambassador, certainly you don’t need a second one. However, if your opponent started off 5/2 and went with Witch/Mountebank, then yeah, I’d definitely double on the Ambassador.

      Assuming you both bought the Ambassador: if there are critical $5/$6 cards that you want (NOT Witch/Mountebank, more like Vault or Hoard), then I’d ease up on the Ambassadoring and get the Silver instead. If there isn’t anything better, maybe go for the two Ambassadors? I tend not to like double-Ambassadoring; it leaves you with too much deadweight in your deck. Better to just hope one is good enough.

      In addition, if there are other $3-4 cards that help with junk in your deck (Bishop, Salvager, Warehouse), then you don’t really need a second Ambassador, you can use one of them instead to help you deal with any extra junk you have.

      • Yariv says:

        I will usually start go for 2 ambassadors, if there is any village+drawing combination, it usually allows me to not only win the estate tennis (which usually just end up with one player holding 1-2 estates, but in multi-player is horrible), it allows me to spam him with all the curses. generally I fall behind with quality cards on first 15-20 rounds (the game tends to be longer, due to attacks), but getting minimal deck and 2 ambassadors every turn is well worth it, and I end up winning. Can’t say I have any real research behind this, however.

        Any chance to add any remarks about multi-player ambassador? The main difference, of course, is that in 2p the supply grows and hands shrink, in 3-4p the supply shrinks and hands grow.

        “Timeo ambassadors et dona ferentes”

  5. Hi Theory, very nice blog! I’m new to Dominion and I’m having a very nice time reading. BTW you forgot to close an a tag:

    Possessed Ambassador.


    • theory says:

      Thanks for the headsup 🙂 Fixed.

      There’s a couple of these little bugs floating around; if you see any, let us know and we’ll stomp on it.

  6. I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your blog. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me
    to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to
    create your theme? Exceptional work!

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