Disclaimer: Dominion does a really great job of balancing its Kingdom cards. Pretty much every card has some situations where it shines, and some situations where it doesn’t. Nevertheless, some cards just end up being flat-out better than others, either because they are more useful more often, or just ridiculously good when they are useful. Don’t expect this list to be very scientific.
Village earns its place on this list solely due to its notorious misuse by beginning players, an epidemic that carries its own insulting nickname. Many a tale is told by grizzled BSW veterans, in the days before Isotropic, of the endless Village chains they were forced to endure, usually culminating in the Village Idiot buying yet more Villages, never increasing their buying power. And yet it remains an inexplicably popular first-turn buy, despite the fact that players who buy it on one of the first two turns score well under 40% against players who don’t. (For reference, this is about two percentage points better on average than opening with Copper.)
4. Wishing Well
There’s definitely uses for this card. There’s a whole article on how to use it. Problem is, when you’re only scrounging up $3 per hand, you really can’t waste time buying a card that’s usually like buying nothing at all. If for whatever reason you find yourself with $3 in the midgame, it’s a worthwhile non-terminal if you don’t want to weigh your deck down with Silvers, but the $4 non-terminals are so much better it’s not even funny. It can’t really do any harm, but it can’t do that much good either, and so it’s #4 on the list.
University is amazing, Workshop isn’t. The difference? $5 Actions are actually useful, to the point where you probably want as many of them as you can in your deck because of how much they boost your deck quality. That just doesn’t hold true for $3 and $4 Actions. Most of them are terminal and intended strictly for early-game use. And few of the non-terminals actually improve your deck in a meaningful way. About its best use is for Great Halls and Caravans, but even then, it’s far outclassed by Ironworks.
Of course, it’s good for Gardens, and if in a Cursy game, or in a game overflowing with Actions but without +Buy, Workshop might be worth it to pick up some Caravans or Great Halls if Ironworks isn’t around. But that’s a lot of if’s. 90% of the time, it’s far more important to ramp up your engine instead of dilly-dallying at the $3/$4 level. Even if you gain every Great Hall and every Spy with your Workshop, you still haven’t made any progress whatsoever towards reaching $8, or even $6 per hand.
No one purchases a Woodcutter unless they have no other choice. If you’re very prescient, I can see the appeal of opening with Woodcutter if you know you’ll be setting up long Laboratory chains. But you’re never happy to do it, and there better be basically no other terminal on the board to justify such a move.
Woodcutter ranks worse than Workshop because it’s not even the best card in the one situation where Woodcutter shines. (Though I concede this is a debatable point.) Plus, the Woodcutters in the picture aren’t even sawing correctly. I mean, come on! What’s the point of making such an inefficiently wide (not to mention crooked) cut?
Most players’ first impression of Chancellor is that it’s crap. Then you start second-guessing yourself; you wonder whether or not you’re giving it short shrift. Maybe this is one of those “expert-level” cards that only good players can appreciate, you think to yourself. You start trying it out, faithfully trying to manipulate deck variance in your favor. Then you realize it’s still crap.
Nevertheless, Chancellor holds the unique title of “most overrated underrated card”. That is, you will continue to see people extolling its virtues, coming up with exotic scenarios that justify using a terminal Action on deck reshuffling.
The long and short of it is that although Chancellor offers a benefit, it’s a marginal and uncertain one. If you really want, you can get most of its benefit (and then some) from Watchtower/Royal Seal/Navigator anyway. And unlike just about every other card, there is never a board where you need a Chancellor in order to succeed. Yeah, it works nicely with Stash, but the fact that Chancellor’s best combo involves investing in another mediocre card (a promotional one, to boot) really should end up counting against it.