This is a 2-player game played between me and Blooki (aka Triceratops). The log is available here (spoiler alert!). Blooki/Triceratops is one of the top players on the leaderboard, primarily due to his creative and innovative decks.
Analyzing the Set
The dominant combo in this game is Vault->Grand Market. Grand Market is basically the best Action in the game, but is a huge pain to buy, especially in Province games. Vault, however, makes it trivial to buy Grand Markets by allowing you to discard your Coppers and use them too. In fact, you’re guaranteed a Grand Market every time you play Vault.
So given Grand Market, Vault enters the high echelon of “must-have-$5’s”, enough to make me open Feast. (Most of the other must-have $5’s are attacks: e.g., Mountebank).
The better question is what the $3 should be. On most boards, Silver is the obvious choice. But there are a couple considerations that push for Wishing Well here instead:
1) The average card value in my deck will be well over $2 by endgame, making Wishing Well more valuable than Silver even if it misses;
2) Wishing Wells cycle my deck more quickly, particularly in the early game where I am more likely to guess correctly, and therefore allow me to play the critical card in my deck (Vault) more often;
3) My deck’s money is primarily going to come from Grand Markets and Vaults, and in that case the Silver’s extra $1 is not really all that important compared to being able to play my Grand Markets and Vaults.
Accordingly, I open Feast/Wishing Well. Blooki, seeing the same Vault->Grand Market interaction, opens Feast/Silver.
It’s very difficult to capture in text the feeling of playing a Dominion game. In annotating this particular game, I have decided to include all Actions played, but abbreviate their titles.
If you have any suggestions for the notation system, please note them in the comments; this is far from perfect, and I greatly appreciate any ideas as to how to efficiently display relevant game data (including game state).
|1||$4 -> Feast||$4 -> Feast|
|2||$3 -> Wishing Well (reshuffle)||$3 -> Silver (reshuffle)|
|3||$3 -> Wishing Well||$5 -> Vault|
$3 -> Wishing Well (reshuffle)
|$3 -> Silver (reshuffle)|
$5 -> Laboratory
$5 -> Laboratory
$7 -> Grand Market
$6 -> Grand Market
The opening didn’t go particularly well for me, as Blooki’s superior buying power nabs him an extra Lab. But the Wishing Well is already starting to cycle my deck a little faster.
|7||Lab; WW x3 (reshuffle)
$7 -> Grand Market (reshuffle)
|Lab x2; GMarket
$7 -> Throne Room, Great Hall
$5 -> Laboratory
$7 -> Grand Market
|9||Lab; GM x2; WW x3 (reshuffle)
$13 -> Grand Market x2 (reshuffle)
$6 -> Laboratory (reshuffle)
My Wishing Wells are starting to pay off. Had Blooki’s Silver been a Wishing Well instead, he would have drawn several more Action cards instead of being stuck at $6.
|Key Cards||4 Grand Markets, 2 Laboratories, 1 Vault, 3 Wishing Wells||2 Grand Markets, 3 Laboratories, 1 Vault, 1 Throne Room, 2 Silvers|
|10||GMarket x3; Lab x2; WW x3
$14 -> Grand Market, Throne Room x2 (reshuffle)
|GH; Lab x2; Throne(GMarket)
$14 -> Throne Room, Laboratory x2
This highlights how much those Silvers really hurt. Had Blooki’s Silvers been Wishing Wells, he would have gotten to his Vault like I did. Unsurprisingly, GMarket/Throne/Throne turns out to be superior to Throne/Lab/Lab. By the time he does get to his Vault next turn, it is too late.
|11||Lab x2; GMarket x4; WWx2; Throne(GMarket); Vault
$18 -> Grand Market x3 (reshuffle)
$5 -> Laboratory (reshuffle)
|12||Throne(GMarket); GMarket x7;
Lab x2; WWx2; Vault
$25 -> Province, Laboratory x2, Great Hall x2 (reshuffle)
|GH; Lab x3; Throne(GMarket); GMarket
$15 -> Province, Duchy, Estate (reshuffle)
Whenever you come out the better after an intense competition for Actions, you should look to see if you can end it on piles rather than VPs (especially if you are first player). Sometimes you can’t, because of a lack of +Buy, but more often than not there’s a way to safely end the game on piles rather than going for a more risky VP exhaustion. You want to look for non-terminals that essentially guarantee your deck can’t stall out while ending the game. Here, I empty out the Labs (which had already been somewhat depleted) and begin to hammer the Great Halls. Blooki, recognizing this, scrambles to grab as much VP as he can, hoping to stop me from ending it on piles by amassing a small lead. But this hurts his deck much more than it hurts mine.
|13||WW; GMarket x3; GH
$10 -> Province, Haven
|Throne(Lab); GH; Lab x2; Vault; GMarket
$11 -> Province, Great Hall
|14||Lab x4; WW x2; GH x2;
GMarket x4; Throne(GMarket) x2
$26 -> Great Hall x4, Province, Estate x3
|Final Score||30 (3 Provinces, 6 Estates, 6 Great Halls)||21 (2 Provinces, 4 Estates, 1 Duchy, 2 Great Halls)|
I end up playing my Vault 7 times, while Blooki plays it only 4 times. This allows me to establish a massive Grand Market lead, which in the presence of non-terminals is nearly impossible to overcome because it can force a premature pile ending at will. Several times, Blooki’s Silvers get in the way; instead of allowing him to draw his Vault, they force him to settle for Labs or Throne Rooms instead. And except for a few early game purchases, they never actually boost his purchasing power by a significant amount. (See, e.g., turn 6, where Blooki’s Silver is about as useful as any other card.)