Sea Hag is a powerful card, and one you should almost always open with. As far as the Cursing attacks go, it doesn’t get any more direct than this. No need to wait for the reshuffle for Familiar and Witch to start having an impact; no, just drop a Curse on top of your opponent’s deck and guarantee that they’ll draw a dead card next turn.
Does this mean that Sea Hag is superior to Witch? Probably not—the fact that you spend an Action doing nothing is a huge drawback. So certainly Witch is the better choice if you open $5/$2. But Sea Hag is strong enough that I would probably buy it with a $4/$3 instead of waiting for Witch.
The exception is with certain counters that directly benefit from having a Curse on top instead of in the discard (Lookout, Upgrade, Masquerade, and Native Village chief among them); even a +1 Action/+1 Card Action and a trasher in hand means the Sea Hag Curse goes away pretty quickly. In those situations, you should probably delay getting the Sea Hag and hope to jump to Witches instead. (Note that in multiplayer games, multiple Sea Hags make Lookout a far less desirable counter, since it’s quite likely your Curse on top will get discarded for another Curse.) If Witches aren’t available, consider delaying your Sea Hag purchase until later in the game; delayed Cursing attacks can be quite helpful because your opponent will typically have diluted his trashing ability with other cards, and possibly even Remodeled his trashers away.
Note that this does not apply to generalized early trashing: there is no reason not to open Sea Hag/Chapel, since your Cursing significantly slows down his ability to trash. This is a general principle applicable to all Cursing attacks, but especially Sea Hag, since it’s available from the very first turn and is therefore guaranteed to hit your opponent before he is able to trim his deck.
After the Curses are gone, you should almost never play Sea Hag, not unless you know your opponent has a good card on her deck. Either she’s been buying Victory cards, in which case you don’t want to discard one of them, or she’s buying good cards, in which case discarding will let him cycle her new purchases in slightly faster. Try to get rid of the Sea Hag as fast as possible, even trashing it to the Chapel if you can.
On a side note: along with Militia, Sea Hag is one of those massively-benefits-first-player cards; if you’re lucky enough to hit another player’s Sea Hag in the early game, that’s basically GG. The card could probably be reworded in a less variancy way, but its current form is probably an implicit concession to the limitations of the physical card size.
- Trash-for-benefit cards (e.g., Remodel, Bishop, Salvager, Apprentice)
- Council Room/Vault, since they’ll be drawing a dead card
- Throne Room / King’s Court (even though the benefit doesn’t strictly stack, all the Cursing attacks hurt much more when Throned or Kinged)
- Lookout, Upgrade, Masquerade
- Native Village
- The non-terminal +1 Action/+1 Card Actions, combined with trashing
- Reaction cards
- Other cursing attacks
- Your handsize-reducing attacks
When curses are gone and your opponent is still in the “improve my deck”-stage you shouldn’t play Sea Hags because you’re helping him cycle a little faster. But when he has started to gain victory cards you should play it again because cycling faster will now hurt him (although it’s only one card so the impact is tiny). You shouldn’t fear discarding one of his green cards because you might just as well discard his King’s Court.
“The exception is with certain counters that directly benefit from having a Curse on top instead of in the discard (Lookout and Native Village chief among them)”
Isn’t Upgrade way superior in this regard? Native village doesn’t even trash … There is almost always the point in the game when you want to put native mat content in hand …
And then there is Masquerade to be added I guess.
You’re very right. I can’t believe I forgot about those.
Great article & blog. There is one thing you said that I just don’t understand.
“If Witches aren’t available, consider delaying your Sea Hag purchase until later in the game; delayed Cursing attacks can be quite helpful because your opponent will typically have diluted his trashing ability with other cards, and possibly even Remodeled his trashers away.”
In my experience, curse attacks are rarely helpful later in the game simply because the curses are GONE. Waiting or hoping no one else passes out curses so you can sneak them in late game is a fool’s errand. If I pass over the sea hag on my first turn pursuing this strategy and so my opponent quickly buys it – I’m toast. Am I missing something from what you’re trying to say here?
If I have access to Upgrades/Masquerades/Lookouts, then I’m okay with not opening Sea Hag and relying on counterpunching the Curses. A good opponent will also often forgo the Sea Hag if there are better $4’s and those counters are available. In those cases, a delayed Sea Hag will probably be more effective than trying to Hag from the beginning.
I play mostly 2-player, so this is obviously much more of an issue in multiplayer games, where you can’t rely on the Curse remaining on top of your deck.
Councilroom’s analysis indicates that Sea Hag only increases your win percentage if purchased in the first four turns. My simulations show that neither Upgrade nor Lookout is an effective counter to Sea Hag. I don’t believe it is advantageous to delay purchasing Sea Hags, except under the rarest of circumstances.
re: your first sentence.
I know we’ve all heard it before, but correlation does not equal causation. (Anyone running simulations is familiar with this, I hope.)
1. If only high(er) level players are realistically expecting a benefit from gaining a certain card mid-way through the game, but those same players make up a small(ish) portion of the player-base, then the overall win-rate-by-turn graph can’t tell the whole story. If the Sea Hag was a clearly bad card after turn X then it “probably” wouldn’t remain above 0.8-0.9 for so long. Just look at the graph for a trasher like Chapel or Moneylender for what the graph “should” look like for a bad mid-gain card.
2. Keep in mind that, while much of the info in this blog is applicable to all levels of play, a lot of the specific strategy/theory discussed here is from the point of view of post-intermediate skill levels and beyond.
“…a lot of the specific strategy/theory discussed here is from the point of view of post-intermediate skill levels and beyond.” <— which is unfortunate.
disclaimer: I make no claims of being anywhere near "post-intermediate" myself.
I have 2 preferred redesigns of the discard effect:
1. “Each other player may discard the top card of his deck, then…”
2. “Each other player discards any face-up Curse cards present on top of his deck, then gains a Curse card, placing it face-up on top of his deck.”
#1 is simple and probably not broken, though it does open up Secret Chamber as a partial defense. #2 is basically what the card wants to do in the first place, minus the needless variance, but is weird and complex.
How does militia favor the player that goes first?
One of the most damaging things Militia can do is knock your first $5 hand down to $4, and first player accomplishes this about twice as often as second player.
Those card discarding attacks do certainly that. In a 4p game, Urchin was in, and only causes you to discard down to 4 cards, but with Mandarin the only $5 card, no “branch actions”, and so-so 4-cost cards, going from $6 to $5 pretty much meant going from buying Gold to Silver or some 3-cost card. I had $6 on a couple of occasisons when the Urchins hit (Silver + 4 Coppers), while another player just harmlessly discarded a Hovel. That player managed to buy a Platinum alot sooner, and then a 2nd one even. Won the game handily.
A good way to experience this is to play the game 4 player.
The first player can never be hit by the Militia on Turn 3. The last player almost always will be. If everybody buys a Militia it is quite possible that player 4 will be hit by the Militia on Turn 3, Turn 4 and Turn 5.
The acceleration effects of getting a better buy on Turn 3 carries over into the later rounds as the cards bought on Turn 3 help diminish the impact of the Militia in the middle game.
Going first is a big deal when dealing with Attacks.
“Going first is a big deal when dealing with Attacks.”
Do reaction cards level this advantage?
Just need to say how much this article improved my game. I’ve always looked at attacks from two angles, how much they hurt the opponent and how much they help me. I have always similarly downgraded Sea Hag a ton because it does nothing to help me. I almost never would have bought a Sea Hag before. After reading this I realized how wrong I was and have played with Sea Hag a lot recently, and it has been the difference maker in more than one game. Thanks theory.
Great site, But you are incorrect by saying that Sea Hag works well with Throne room. The opponent would actually only gain 1 curse if Sea Hag was Throne Room’d because the second play they would trash their curse they just gained.
If by trash you mean discard, and by gains 1 you mean gains 2, and by incorrect you mean correct, then I agree.
Yeah i totally had a brain fart and was like “i’m dumb”… thanks for the quick reply, even if it was to point out my stupidity 😉
Reading my post again, I realized I sound like a jerk, sorry for the mean tone :(.
It will also conflict slightly with Ambassador on the board since they will send the curses back. Ambassador + Native Village is also a conflict as you mat the Curses, then wait until you can un-mat with Ambassadors and Curses.
I learned last night not to run with both Sea Hag and Mountebank. “Do I have a curse in my hand? Yeah, it’s the one your Sea Hag gave me last turn. Thanks!”
Well, I feel they work together fine. The flipside of your perspective is that you can only consistently reveal curses I you already have a bunch.
Mountebank is stronger overall (and not dead after the curses have run out), but Sea Hag is more direct – and you can get it with a $4 open (which I would most times do even on a board with Mountebank). If I start wit $5 I would usually ignore Sea Hag and maybe try to quickly get another Mountebank instead.
I did some serious damage today with an early sea hag or two… forcing my opponent to buy a full embassy of Ambassadors who bunched together far too much with their canapes to give many curses back. I ended up with 9 curses back late in the game but by that stage had cleaned up almost all the provinces… and had my own Ambassadors.
I had always felt early attacks unless with witches (I only own Seaside, and Dominion) were weak however felt very smug with my huge victory today..
Sea hag and Ambassador are both strong early cards because of the attack. (For ambassador, that’s only 40% of the story, the ability to get junk out of your deck is also important).
Love the article, very well written. You mention that it works well with remodel and other trash for benefits cards but if this is the case does it really slow them down that much? I mean it slows you down too by giving them out and if they can remodel there curses to estates. I guess I’d still rather be on the giving end of the deal though so I don’t have to deal with the curses later. One other card that I think it may work well with that comes in the Sea Side expansion is Islands. Buy the Sea Hag give out the curses and the Island away your Sea Hag when she is no longer useful. The others could Island away their curses but they still count against them, thoughts?
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