Cornucopia: Menagerie

Menagerie

Dominion: Cornucopia

Menagerie is one of several Cornucopia cards that is very strong — equivalent to two Laboratories (!) –but probably not worth opening with.  Your initial deck of 7 Coppers and 3 Estates is the biggest barrier to Menagerie’s success: early trashing is basically the only way to make Menagerie at all effective before the midgame.  Without it, your Menagerie is only going to activate if you have 4 unique cards plus your Menagerie (3 if you have another Menagerie in your hand, since it’ll get counted as unique by the time you play Menagerie), and it’s pretty difficult to get 3 early buys into a hand with a Copper and Estate.

About the only exception to this 4-unique-card requirement are handsize decreasers. Menagerie is a fantastic counter to Militia (assuming you draw it against their Militia, which will happen quite often in multiplayer games), since even in the early game you’d have to be quite unlucky not to draw 2 unique cards with the Menagerie in your (pre-Militia) 5-card hand.  You end up with 5 cards after playing the Menagerie, which is the same as if you had not been Militia’d, and more importantly, lets you discard the bad cards to the Militia and hopefully draw better ones.

Voluntarily decreasing your own hand is even better.  Warehouse is the easiest approach: with 7 cards, it is usually easy to find 3 uniques, or alternatively simply discard the Menagerie.  Outpost is also good, provided you can find some way of drawing your Menagerie in the 3 Outpost cards.  Cards that let you discard for some benefit are even better, but with the exception of Hamlet, they (Vault, Horse Traders) tend to require some +Action in order to play the Menagerie.  And Haven is a special example: you want to use it to shuffle your repeating cards into the next hand so you can activate your Menagerie, or alternatively shift your Menagerie from hand to hand until you find a good hand for it.

Naturally, Menagerie works well with all those Cornucopia cards that encourage or promote variety.  It is a (very) soft counter to Cursing attacks and Swindler, which tend to give you cards you would not have bought.

Finally, otherwise universally good handsize-increasers tend to hurt Menagerie.  This is especially true for Durations like Caravan, where the extra card that screws up your Menagerie is probably not worth it.

Works with:

  • Early trashing
  • Warehouse
  • Opponent’s Militia, Goons, handsize-decreasers
  • Outpost
  • Hamlet
    • Other discard-for-benefit cards, with some +Action (e.g., Horse Traders, Vault)
  • Haven
  • Other Cornucopia cards that reward variety (e.g., Harvest, Fairgrounds)
  • Cards that lead to variety (e.g., Black Market, Prizes, opponents’ Cursing attacks)

Conflicts with:

  • Caravan, Wharf, other handsize-increasers
  • Tactician
  • Total lack of trashing, or other way to get rid of Coppers
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47 Responses to Cornucopia: Menagerie

  1. Kuildeous says:

    >>>Menagerie is one of several Cornucopia cards that is strong but probably not worth opening with. <<<

    I couldn't agree more. I watched my opponents this weekend pick up this card in the first two turns. Granted, I think it's the newness of the set that encourages players to give it a shot. I had already tried out this card in electronic format, so I already knew that it was not worth opening with.

    My wife got buyer's remorse pretty quickly, though. In turn 3, she said, "I don't think I should have bought this card yet," and I knew that she was talking about Menagerie.

    But, it is a pretty awesome card when your deck supports it.

    • Ryan says:

      There can be no doubt about this. Opening turns are vital; you need something that benefits you immediately. Menagerie is even weaker than Village until you can get rid of some Coppers/Estates, and of course opening with Village is a famously bad choice.

      I’d never buy a Menagerie before turn 5, after the second reshuffle, and even this would only be under exceptional circumstances. Maybe if I opened with Chapel and trashed cards with all possible speed (but since of course you mustn’t trash all your Coppers until you find other sources of income, I can’t think of a situation where this would ever be practical). Or if I drew a $3 hand and there was absolutely nothing good for me at that price, of course buying a Menagerie for its future benefit is better than nothing…but Silver is almost certainly better, even if you’re worried about duplicate Silvers clogging up your Menagerie in the future. (And if there are no good cards at $2/$3, you should probably start questioning whether you can get enough variety to make Menagerie very powerful.)

      • Richard says:

        According to menagerie has a win rate starting as early as the third turn! Obviously it is too early to activate, but I suppose simply having some in your deck for a reshuffle or two down the line when you do have enough variation is a huge deal.

        Menagerie is, simply put, a fantastic card. It counters hand-size reduction, is non-terminal, rewards use of other cornucopia cards, etc. all for only 3 treasure. It is just a mind-boggling good card. I would buy it at 4. I would grumble, sure, but its applicability in so many situations makes it an incredibly reliable card. I am surprised by the councilroom stats, but they appear to suggest that buying a turn 3 menagerie is okay. You take a hit to early momentum, but it is incredibly powerful to have a menagerie in your deck, just waiting for a chance to activate.

      • Katsue says:

        The circumstances where that would be most likely is in a Scrying Pool game. Not that Menagerie is especially good with Scrying Pool, but any cantrip type card is good if you have Scrying Pool.

        • Ryan says:

          I don’t know the first thing about using Scrying Pool, but are you saying Menagerie would be a good buy by around turn 5 or 6 in such a game? That seems hard to imagine.

          In the opening, Scrying Pool itself seems even worse than Menagerie. Suppose you buy Scrying Pool on turn 3 and play it on turn 5, discarding one of his early buys (the luckiest outcome for you). He bought a good card which he won’t get to use yet, which is a shame…but you bought a card which simply doesn’t benefit you yet, which is equally bad. But that’s not all. You wasted another of your opening buys along the way: the Potion you spent for the Scrying Pool which turned out to be a dud. This looks very inefficient.

          Add a Menagerie to the mix and it seems even worse. If you’re doing all this right off the bat, you certainly haven’t had time to trash cards, so Menagerie won’t trigger. All you’ve gained is the very slim chance that your Scrying Pool will hit your Menagerie, expanding your hand by 1 card. I don’t think you can recover from starting off with such weak opening cards.

          By all means let me know if I misunderstood you or I’m missing something. As I said, I don’t use Scrying Pool much, and half the reason I wrote all this out was to organize my own thoughts on it.

          • Stoc says:

            Silvers poison a Scrying Pool deck, because they stop your draw. Nonterminal drawing cards have extremely good synergy with Scrying Pool, because you can draw a handful with the SP, and then use each of them to draw an additional card.

            So, for example, draw 3 Menageries with your Scrying Pool, and then draw 3 (or 5, if the last hits) new cards.

            Not that I would build a deck purely around Menageries and Scrying Pool. However, if I was building a deck using Scrying Pool I would certainly favor Menageries over Silvers.

          • Katsue says:

            Scrying Pool is, in the right deck, the strongest card draw out there. In a game with University, Ironworks, Hamlet or Pawn, you can draw 10+ cards from a single play of Scrying Pool. The big issue with it is that ideally you need an action-based source of money.

            Now, as I said, Menagerie doesn’t work super-well with Scrying Pool compared to other +1 Action, +1 Card cards. It’s probably worse than Wishing Well in that regard, but if you have a source of +Buy, and it’s the only cheap cantrip out there, it’s well worth it.

      • Death to Sea Hags says:

        I love this card, but i’ve only opened with Menagerie when (As Arya says below) it’s the Bane.
        But I’ve bought (or gained) it in shuffle#2 under the following circumstances, all of which tend to rapidly increase hand diversity before the second reshuffle:
        1. gain-a-card actions, like Ironworks
        2. rapid trashing
        3 = 1+2 especially Upgrade-style, double esp. Remake and another good $3 card on the board, or a $5 Trading Post open.
        4. cursing attacks – curses are deck diversity, too
        5. opponent’s Militia opening – its a hard counter
        6. discard-driven +1 actions, like Hamlet or Warehouse. Probably not Cellar, although there’s decent odds of making it work and you can get superfast deck cycling

    • Arya Stark says:

      it’s good to open with it, when it’s the bane card ;P

  2. Ryan says:

    In my experience, it’s worth adding that Menagerie plays well with Treasure Kingdom cards. If your plan is to trash your Coppers/Estates and rely heavily on Menagerie (especially with no discard-for-benefit cards), money can be hard to come by. Too many Golds and Menagerie will be wasted; you can skirt this risk because duplicate Golds isn’t always a bad problem to have, but it’s a waste to have a bunch of Menageries in your deck if they’re never going to activate. Buying many Silvers is just a terrible idea. Maybe there are a variety of Actions that give +$…and maybe there aren’t, or you don’t have enough +Action to use them as a major source of income.

    Unusual Treasure cards can solve this problem nicely. Cards like Bank or Harem give you the money you need and *also* increase deck variety. I haven’t tried Stash but it sounds great for this: you can buy 2 or maybe even 3 copies and still be completely certain you won’t get a collision unless you draw your whole deck. Even Loan doesn’t really drive you crazy after its job is done; this is the rare situation where you actually might find yourself saying “I’m glad I drew this Loan instead of a Silver” in the endgame.

    • Ryan says:

      A quick addendum to the Stash idea: actually, it would seem that even a single Stash greatly improves the odds of activating Menagerie. If you have, say, 3 Menageries in a reasonably trim deck, the odds are pretty decent that you’ll draw at least one of them in your first hand after shuffling. If you also draw a Stash, then the only way Menagerie can fail is if 2 out of the other 3 cards are duplicates. That’s a lot less likely than 2 out of 4.

      And that’s assuming you don’t draw any cards prior to shuffling. If there are three cards left in your draw pile and two are duplicates, when you reshuffle for the remaining two cards you’ll know to leave Stash for a later hand. Likewise if you draw four cards and none are Menagerie.

      Of course the more you hit Menagerie, the faster your deck cycles; the faster your deck cycles, the more often you get to use the Stash trick. It seems very neat. Of course fast cycling or not, you probably can’t reshuffle every turn, but distributing two or perhaps three Stashes through your deck, spaced far apart, should make for some pretty reliable and big Menagerie turns.

      Sorry if this is a big bore to read, but I always thought Stash was a cool concept and I’ve been disappointed that I couldn’t find uses for it, so I find this exciting.

      • Jeremy says:

        You brought up an interesting side question. Can you look at the two cards left on your deck before shuffling and drawing the remaining three cards?

      • ipofanes says:

        I don’t see how a single Stash affects the odds any other than a single Bureaucrat. But multiple Stashes … I haven’t tried it, but they could make Menagerie shine.

        Menagerie/Upgrade deserve a special mention (especially since you can Upgrade your Estates to more Menageries, and double Menageries don’t hurt, only triples). I think I once Upgraded a Province, just to keep the chain going.

        • Reyk says:

          “I think I once Upgraded a Province, just to keep the chain going.”

          Into Platinum or nothing?

        • Ryan says:

          I haven’t tried Bureaucrat with Menagerie, but I’m not keen on the idea, for a few reasons.

          Unless you’re using something like Upgrade, it’ll clog your deck with Silvers, which I think is the worst mistake you can make with Menagerie. Since you’re poor early on from trashing Coppers, you probably already bought as many Silvers as you want for this sort of deck. Putting the new Silver on top isn’t likely to give you a Menagerie boost like Stash does; it just means it can ruin your Menagerie draw sooner rather than later.

          If your opponent has Menageries, I imagine it’s a somewhat effective counter to Bureaucrat’s attack. If he owns few Provinces and has no Menagerie in his hand, your attack might increase the diversity of his next hand. If he owns many Provinces, you might be taking a duplicate out of his hand. In either of these cases you’re increasing the diversity of his hand, but that isn’t so bad: it even increases the chance of activating two Menageries in the same turn. And in multiplayer games, he won’t have to worry about the nightmare scenario where somebody plays a Bureaucrat and the same Victory card goes back on top every single turn: even a +1 Card Menagerie is enough to draw it and discard it once and for all.

          Finally, Bureaucrat is just a crappy terminal action. In a lot of games with scarce +Action and big Menagerie hands, that’s pretty bad. If there aren’t a couple of stronger terminals you’d rather have in its place, a diversity deck might not be the best choice: maybe you should go for something more Big Money-esque. But that’s a big overgeneralization.

          • ipofanes says:

            Ryan,
            thanks for your lengthy and thoughtful reply. However, I just wanted top make the point that a single Stash in the deck affects your chances just like any other single card. I just took the Bureaucrat as an example. I might as well have said “single Grand Market” or “single Throat Wolf”.

            • Ryan says:

              Well, darn!

              But I think there is are some small differences at play. A single “Throat Wolf” can be anywhere in your deck. In a well-optimized Menagerie deck, there’s a decent chance that you’ll play a successful Menagerie and draw the Throat Wolf as a result. Not a bad outcome, but you lose the benefit of the Throat Wolf’s uniqueness until your next reshuffle. A lone Stash is guaranteed always to appear in your starting hand, never anywhere else.

              Besides, if the Throat Wolf is near the bottom of the deck, there’s a good chance it won’t make it into the Draw Pile for the next reshuffle. Its uniqueness is obviously less helpful while it sits in the Discard Pile. (Of course this can backfire, if Throat Wolf is a mediocre card and you lose something more powerful in its place.) Let me know if you have no idea what I’m talking about here; it’s a cleanup-phase subtlety I didn’t notice for a long time.

              Moreover, if the Throat Wolf shuffles to the bottom of the deck, you have to get through the whole deck before its uniqueness can potentially benefit you. And getting through your deck takes slightly longer because you’re slightly less likely to have a successful Menagerie while it’s out of the picture.

              That’s why I think that a) a single Stash shuffled to the top of the deck is more likely to help your Menageries than a randomly placed Throat Wolf, and b) On average, it gives you a slight increase in deck cycling speed, which synergizes nicely with Stash itself. These are probably very small effects but it’s at least a fun thought exercise.

  3. guided says:

    My impression has been that Menagerie is very difficult to usefully incorporate into a deliberate strategy, though it often can be a good use of a mid-game $3 buy once you don’t want any more Silver. On the other hand, I should add that it’s an excellent counter to hand-reduction attacks. Probably an even better counter than Horse Traders against the “discard down to 3” attacks.

    Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Horse Traders is the gold-plated Cadillac of Minion counters.😉

    • DG says:

      Cards that you can’t play out during the action phase are the enemy of the menagerie. Remove enough of those from your deck and you can incorporate the menagerie as part of a clear plan.

    • chris says:

      Seems like it would be great in a Conspirator/Minion deck, too. Even a failed Menagerie counts toward Conspirator activation, but on top of that, with a smaller hand from Minion, the chance of getting no duplicates is better, so Menagerie is more likely to get the bonus, making it easier to find the next Minion (or more than one, or another Menagerie). Since those decks also love other nonterminals like Warehouse and Haven, some of which are already listed here… the possibilities are great.

      This might be an exception to your “can’t incorporate into a deliberate strategy” observation, even.

      • guided says:

        Never said “can’t”, just “very difficult”.

        Winning consistently at Dominion against good players generally requires that when you buy a card you know exactly how you will use it, and you can rely on routinely getting good use out of it. Buying a card that works sometimes in the hopes that it will work more often than not is a good way to increase your variance, which certainly helps you to win against superior competition if nothing else. It also helps you to lose against inferior competition.

        Now the standard for usefulness of a $3 buy isn’t that high, which is why I say Menagerie is a pretty good general-use midgame buy for $3. I’d equate it roughly to using loose a loose $5 buy for a Laboratory: if you don’t have anything better to do with your money, hey, why not! I just find that if you’re scanning the board before turn 1 forming a plan for how to win the game, it’s rare that Menagerie is going to be a cornerstone of a good strategy: it’s simply not reliable enough most of the time.

    • Ryan says:

      I think it depends how you define a “deliberate strategy.” A lot of Dominion “strategies” basically boil down to exploiting a synergy between 2 or 3 Kingdom cards by buying enough copies of each (or having enough +Cards) to ensure that the combo comes up often. But duplicate copies and +Cards are the enemies of Menagerie; as you say, you might still get the +3 now and then, but it’s not the best use of the card.

      In my experience a Menagerie deck looks more like a mishmash of decently-strong-but-not-particularly-related cards. But that’s okay, because having a few reliable Menageries floating around your deck is like having a few Alchemists living on top of it. It won’t redeem a crappy deck full of conflicting terminals or Curses, but it can turn a mediocre deck into a very strong one.

      It’s hard to qualify this as a “deliberate strategy,” since success is primarily based on what the “mishmash” cards can do for you. You have to judge their individual benefits, and any small synergies that might arise, to gauge whether the whole will be more than the sum of its parts.

      • joel88s says:

        The ‘mishmash’ you describe is of course exactly the sort of deck Cornucopia thematically intends to promotes, and synergizes with a number of its other cards naturally (Harvest, Fairgrounds, etc.) I guess ‘Mishmash’ sadly didn’t make the cut as a possible title though.😉

        Apropos of nothing, it just finally dawned on my torpid brain that ‘cornucopia’ is simply Latin for ‘Horn of Plenty”. So I guess that’s the ultimately thematic card.

    • Ninjabus says:

      Having just tried it out, Horse Traders can be a wonderful thing to have if the minion purchases didn’t go your way.

  4. chwhite says:

    I am madly in love with Menagerie and consider it to be the best $3 card in the game, yes probably even better than Fishing Village and Ambassador. Councilroom says, in fact, I have a higher win rate with Menagerie than with any card save the two power Prizes, Trusty Steed and Followers. More than Princess, Mountebank, Goons, Colony, KC, or any of the other usual suspects. As such, I think this writeup actually underrates the power of Menagerie.

    There are some rare cases in which Menagerie is not worth buying- a no-trash Smithy/Big Money setup, or some Tactician decks, but in the vast majority of cases it’s IMO a better buy than Silver as soon as Turn 3 (obviously it’s not really ever a good Turn 1/2 buy), and it just about always blows the other similar cantrips out of the water. Compare with Wishing Well, which if you get it to hit is a Lab for $3. If you get Menagerie to hit (and in most decks it’ll hit at most 50 percent of the time but that’s okay), it’s a DOUBLE Lab for $3. That’s really the key to Menagerie’s power- there is almost never a downside to buying one (Smithy/BM is really the only case where it’ll ever hurt) , and the benefit is *so outsized* that it only only needs to hit once or twice to be better than anything else you could buy for $3 or $4. If you can go diversity-happy and get it to hit most of the time, it becomes really stupid good.

    Obviously it’s an incredible counter to Militia/Goons; and it works well with any sort of trashing but especially Remake (if both are out, I’ll normally open Remake/Silver and then remake all my Estates into Menageries). With Hamlets you don’t even need trashing to trigger your Menageries!

    • Personman says:

      Ah, underrated $3 cantrips! How I love them! And how I love to see someone else crusading to bring them the respect they deserve🙂

      I am a little skeptical that it’s better than silver on turn 3 without Hamlet or Warehouse, but I do love me some menageries.

  5. jL says:

    Forgive me for my ignorance but how is a triggered Menagerie equal two labs? Triggered Menagerie draws 3 cards if triggered. I’m sure there’s some interaction I’m not figuring out so thanks for the explanation in advance.

    • theory says:

      After you play Menagerie, you are left with 7 cards. After playing two Labs, you are also left with 7 cards.

    • Kuildeous says:

      I’ve been confused by that notation in other articles. The key is to look at the net gain of cards. A Laboratory actually nets you one extra card. A Smith nets you two cards. The mighty Envoy nets you three cards.

  6. Jeremy says:

    I’m sure it’s been mentioned, but in some ways, it doesn’t seem like buying multiple Menageries would be a bad thing. In a sense of strictly activating the three-card draw, even if it fails, you’d still be left with a five-card hand after playing all the Menageries from your initial draw; it’s like the +1 card, +1 action cards without an extra benefit (e.g. +1 VP from Great Hall).

    Obviously it would hurt other cards that thrive on variety if you had too many Menageries and not enough of anything else.

    • Ryan says:

      It’s not bad at all. In fact, any +Action, +0-1 Card card is pretty much fine.

      If your deck is optimized for Menagerie, you want plenty of Menageries so that you’re assured of big turns as often as possible. Your deck isn’t designed to win the game with five-card hands, so you want to have as few of those as possible. And especially with cards like Hamlet, it’s actually quite possible to trigger two or even three Menageries in a single turn if you have them.

  7. Zaphod says:

    The amazing thing about Menagerie is how often you can get the three-card draw without much effort (aside from not buying the same kingdom card five times in a row). I agree that buying it early is typically a bad idea, but it’s a nice card grab after a couple shuffles, especially if good trashing cards are present. Remake is especially nice with Menagerie.

    There are some cards that work best when you gain several of them (e.g. Caravan, City, Venture, etc.), and most of those are very poor partners for the Menagerie. One exception is the Minion, because you can play all but one, then play Menagerie and continue. Generally speaking, cards that provide + actions but not + cards work fairly well with Menagerie. In fact, it partners well with itself, so it’s reasonable to get a few.

  8. papahav says:

    I think its worth noting that festivals/lighthouses always work well with menagerie (and minion doubly! as menageries love reduced handsize).

    Duplicates of +coin+action cannot disable you since they’re out of hand.
    Variety is not always needed to make menagerie explode! =]

  9. Silverback says:

    I found Menagerie to be useful against Bishop. It works pretty much the same way as against Militia, only better.

  10. Willvon says:

    Since I haven’t had the chance to play with the Cornucopia cards yet, I really appreciate getting somemore insight into some of the cards from that deck. Thank you very much.

  11. michaeljb says:

    I like Menagerie quite a bit, and have been able to successfully use it a couple of times. My best Menagerie moment was when I revealed 9 different cards to draw 3:
    http://councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20110531-132803-d40a0d88.html#michaeljb-show-turn-21

  12. Anonymous says:

    I dunno if ppl have realize that menagerie works perfectly with blak marcket. Of course u need to play black market first and, to do it, u need some actions but i tried with fishing village and was incredible good without even trashing any coopers and anything.

  13. rakunk says:

    If you have extra actions to spare, it seems like it would pair well with mandarin also.

    If you have two copies of a particular card, play mandarin and put one of those copies back on top of your deck. Then, play menagerie and draw that card right back into your hand, along with 2 more.

    Worth consideration in the absence of more obvious options.

  14. bonedocmtgs says:

    Man, Menagerie is such a blast to play. It makes you buy weird things you wouldn’t normally to get the engine off the ground. Heck, I’ve even bought a Curse or two just to keep the engine rolling🙂

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