Cornucopia: Hunting Party

Hunting Party

Dominion: Cornucopia

This is an expanded and revised version of an article originally posted by WanderingWinder in the forum.  A subsequent article by Mean Mr Mustard has explored specific Hunting Party combos.

One of Cornucopia’s absolute power cards, Hunting Party can best be thought of as a Laboratory with a built-in Chancellor, Farming Village, and Demonic Tutor.  It is therefore the closest that Dominion comes thus far to one card being strictly superior to another, as Hunting Party almost always outclasses Laboratory, which is a terrifying thought considering Laboratory was already ranked the #2 non-attack $5 card.

In practice, a Hunting Party chain is essentially a Laboratory chain that only draws you the good cards in your deck.  If you invest in enough Hunting Parties, then you will have an easy time skipping all your Coppers, Estates, and Curses on your way to consistently drawing $8 every turn.  Hunting Party is most abusive when you are set up with a single Silver, a single Gold, and a +$2 terminal, since as long as you can keep playing Hunting Parties, you are basically guaranteed to consistently end up with $8 (a Copper, a Silver, a Gold, and your +$2) every turn, without any need to trash.  That provides a critical tempo difference over Laboratory, which cannot simply rely on a single copy of its important cards even with trashing.  More importantly, Hunting Party is slowed down less by deck-greening than Laboratory; once you start drawing Provinces in your hand, your Hunting Party will skip over all the other Provinces.

Hunting Party works better with terminals than Laboratory.  In many decks, you often have a critical terminal attack (Goons, Mountebank) that you want to play as often as possible.  Hunting Party’s built-in deck-cycling can get that attack out of your discard and back into your hand more quickly, letting you play it more frequently.  Better yet, Hunting Party synchronizes your +Actions with those terminals pretty effectively.  Suppose your next 4 cards were Goons, Goons, Village, and Village.  With a Laboratory, you’d draw two Goons, and be able to play only one of them.  With a Hunting Party, you’d draw one Goons, skip the other one, and draw your Villages.  After gaining your +Actions, you can play the Goons, then hunt your other Goons down with your remaining Hunting Parties.  In this way, it provides flexibility in a way that Laboratory cannot for +Actions/terminals decks.

Finally, Hunting Party works well with those spammable non-terminals that tend to require a very dense deck (Conspirator, Market).  With Hunting Party, so long as you make sure to play your non-terminals in hand before your Hunting Party, you can essentially simulate a dense deck because you are constantly able to hunt down and play your non-terminals.  It makes building Conspirator decks and Market decks actually viable in situations without heavy trashing.

So when is Hunting Party worse than Laboratory?  In a very trimmed deck, your Hunting Party is going to be hunting for the wrong things, since you’ll mostly be skipping over Golds and Platinums in order to hunt down that random Copper you haven’t trashed yet.  And if you’re hit by a handsize-discard attack, then you’re often forced to choose between keeping good cards in hand (and risk skipping good cards to draw into bad) or keeping bad cards in hand (and risk drawing other bad cards).

Of course, Hunting Party doesn’t work well when you need a lot of duplicate cards, like when you rely on Bank, Venture, and Coppersmith.  But in practice, Hunting Party is good enough that you might as well just avoid those cards and build your deck around Hunting Party instead.  Nor does Hunting Party live up to its potential if you can’t get many of them (think multiplayer); it’s still probably better than Laboratory, but it’s much harder to build abusive decks around it.

A special note about deck control: Hunting Party can create dangerous situations where your deck is entirely in the discard, usually after it tries to search for a non-duplicate card and fails.  Because your discard likely consists of crap, if you play out all your Hunting Parties and then play another Action to draw a single card, you will trigger a reshuffle and create for yourself a draw deck composed entirely of crap you skipped over.  The value of playing that last Market is probably not worth your next two turns being full of Copper/Estate sludge; better to just avoid triggering the reshuffle, so you can reshuffle all your Hunting Parties back into the draw deck.

Works with:

  • Untrimmed decks
  • Opponents’ Cursing attacks (somewhat, as it alleviates the pain of the Curses)
  • More Hunting Parties: this is a card that relies heavily on you having a lot of them
  • Strong attacks (e.g., Mountebank, Goons)
  • Cellar/Warehouse
  • Spammed non-terminals (e.g., Conspirator, Market)

Conflicts with:

  • Trimmed decks
  • Opponents’ handsize-decreasing attacks
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24 Responses to Cornucopia: Hunting Party

  1. WanderingWinder says:

    Nice article. Definitely much better than the one I originally posted.

  2. tlloyd says:

    If I recall correctly, this article is 180 degrees from Theory’s initial take on Hunting Party (that it would be less valuable played in bunches). I love that this game keeps even the best of us guessing and learning. I have to say that my Hunting Party experiences so far have tended toward the “wait! don’t skip my gold!”, but it would appear I need to keep trying.

    • rrenaud says:

      To me, this is evidence that our game intuition mostly sucks, and that we should actually play before commenting.

      Said another way, “what do you think of this variant card” threads are almost complete garbage.

      • Captain_Frisk says:

        Agreed on both points. I’m looking forward to my revisit article with theory on how we feel about the cards now vs. how we thought after reading about them.

        Re: Hunting Party specifically, I’m a little let down by how despite the theme of “increasing variety”, hunting party actually works really well when you only buy hunting parties and very little of anything else… so that your hunting parties can find…. other hunting parties!

      • chwhite says:

        I know. Remember when most of us thought Jester was going to be a power $5 attack, instead of the minor annoyance it usually ends up being?

  3. Jahz says:

    Interesting card for sure 🙂
    Liked a lot the last paragraph about deck control !

  4. Blaeu says:

    For me, Hunting Party is only better than Laboratory if you actually build your deck around it. If on your eighth turn you decide a Laboratory would be a good $5 purchase, it will rarely hurt your deck. However, the same cannot be said about Hunting Party. As stated above, “More Hunting Parties: this is a card that relies heavily on you having a lot of them.” Deciding to add one or two mid-game doesn’t really benefit your deck enough to warrant the purchase (unless there is nothing better at $5). To mean, adding a single Hunting Party is like adding a single Minion… just don’t do it.

    Either build your deck around this card, or leave it alone.

    • Personman says:

      I completely fail to see how a single Hunting Party or Minion can hurt a deck (I mean, sure, in really specific circumstances, but…). If you’re not spamming them for some reason, then yeah, there’s likely something better to do, but if there isn’t (the $5 you are spamming is gone, say) I can’t imagine how having one is a *bad* idea. Especially Hunting party. I’m pretty sure a single Hunting Party it’s still better than a single Lab most of the time…

      • chris says:

        A single Hunting Party is better than a single Lab if the cards in your hand (plus the top card of your deck) are worse than the average of the cards in your deck, but how often are they going to be? The advantage of Hunting Party in multiples is that if you play the last one from your hand, then it can skip over cards you already have and find another Hunting Party, but if you don’t *have* another Hunting Party, then that doesn’t work.

        I don’t see how it works with Cellar and Warehouse; it seems to me like it would work against them just as often. If you’ve Warehoused away your Copper and Curses to draw a Hunting Party and keep your Gold in hand, HP will obligingly skip over your Gold to find you another Copper or Curse. The fact that you kept your good cards after Warehouse forces HP to look for your bad cards.

        P.S. One more for the conflict list: Treasure Map. Twice over, in fact: not only is HP about the worst possible way to try to set up a Treasure Map, but once you’ve already activated the Map, you’ll often be playing HP with a Gold already in your hand.

        And for the works-with list: Scout. Any green card you pull with the Scout, the HP will then skip; and you can stack your top cards so that if there *is* something you already have and want a duplicate of, you can put it on top and get it from HP’s blind draw before the skip-duplicates effect. On the other hand, cards you have and don’t want more of can be stacked in second or third places.

        • Kuildeous says:

          Awesome observations about Scout and Treasure Map.

          I view the synergy with Cellar and Warehouse being that if you have multiple useless cards (Copper/Provinces), you can discard down to one so that Hunting Party’s second card won’t put one of those in your hand. Though, I don’t know that choosing to hang onto one of these cards is that much of a benefit. I’m not theory, so I could wrong on that intent.

          • WheresMyElephant says:

            It’s a tough question, but the other thing to remember is that Cellar/Warehouse reduce your handsize by one. Starting off with HP+Cellar+Copper+Copper+(something else) and Cellaring one of the Coppers is actually still worse for you than if the Cellar didn’t exist and in its place you had drawn the next card in your deck. (You wind up with the same hand but with an extra Copper.) If you replace the Coppers with Estates you’re still just breaking even.

            In short, Cellaring one card at a time is a sap’s game. Of course sometimes it’s the correct decision if that’s the hand you’re dealt, but you buy a Cellar because you hope to do more than that with it. So I think the question is, do you expect that typically when you draw your Cellar, you will have so many duplicate crap cards in your hand that you can discard more than one with Cellar AND still leave one in place to make sure HP doesn’t grab the same card? To me it seems like only the worst games would really fit this description, even midway through your turn when you have a 7-8 card hand due to HP. Maybe a 4-player Ambassador game or something.

            Warehouse is a tough call because of course it’s a stronger card in its own right, so it might be worthwhile. But I don’t think it has any more special synergy with HP than Cellar does. Indeed you can imagine situations where Warehouse’s advantage over Cellar is largely wasted. With Warehouse, if the next three cards are crap, you get to just discard them, which normally is great. But the Warehouse’s handsize-reducing effect nullifies the benefit of discarding that first card, and HP likely would have discarded the other two for you anyway, so what have you gained?

            Maybe a better way to put this is: HP is good at enlarging your hand and digging through a deck full of crap. Warehouse/Cellar are good at digging through the deck, but reduce your handsize. Unless your deck is REALLY awful, HP is probably already doing a fine job with it so the worst thing you can do is get in its way.

            • WheresMyElephant says:

              In retrospect my Warehouse analysis was a little flawed. Comparing a hand with Warehouse to one without, the second card you draw with Warehouse would be drawn with HP regardless of whether it’s a duplicate. (The first card you draw with Warehouse is, likely, the card you would already have *instead* of Warehouse in the scenario where you don’t have Warehouse.)

              TL;dr: Dominion is hard. This doesn’t totally destroy my point that HP can nullify some of Warehouse’s special advantages but Warehouse still brings something to the table.

              Who knows, it’s not as though I have play experience to back any of this up anyhow.

          • theory says:

            The reason Cellar and Warehouse work with HP is the same reason it works with Laboratory. It works a little less well than with Lab, but they’re still awesome cards for big hand size strategies.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hunting Party also works well with Menagerie. You still need a diverse hand to start with, but it can still help get that Menagerie mega bonus.

    • Captain_Frisk says:

      This is strictly not true. Your hand can only get “less diverse” after playing hunting party (because the 1st card you draw can cause a duplicate).

      • WheresMyElephant says:

        This is true and is well worth pointing out. But if the HP weren’t there you’d have immediately drawn that duplicate card anyhow. So at least you’re no worse off (in fact, you’re slightly better since you get the option to play Menagerie before HP.)

        HP can however help you track down the Menagerie, or helper cards like Hamlet/Cellar/Warehouse, and has less risk of causing duplicates along the way than any other method of doing so.

        It may not be an especially strong synergy but they are compatible to say the least. Both work toward the ultimate goal of big hands; HP is probably the only non-Menagerie handsize-increaser that doesn’t blatantly conflict with Menagerie, and is exactly the kind of nonterminal that fits into Menagerie decks.

  6. themaroon says:

    Laboratory is much better as a turn 1 or 2 buy. Buy a Hunting Party off the bat in a 5/2 deck and it’s probably only going to draw you one card, which could easily be the difference between 4 and 5 or 5 and 6, and also not letting you get a full reshuffle after turn 4.

    • WheresMyElephant says:

      I’m not sure how you wouldn’t get a full reshuffle; in fact, in all likelihood it would play like a weak Chancellor that only gives +0-1. Which as you say is pretty miserable for an opener, let alone a $5.

      • theory says:

        It’s guaranteed to hit your $2 even if you draw it on Turn 3. If you draw it on Turn 4 or 5 you get the deck reshuffle and draw your $3 action that you bought on Turn 3. I’d say it’s a stronger opener than Lab.

  7. Chris Morrow says:

    I sometimes wonder about the effects of the fact that card costs have to be integers. For example, would Hunting Party’s most “correct” cost be somewhere between 5 and 6?

    Come to think of it, that might be another “purpose” of Potions, if only for Alchemy cards; a Potion is usually worth between 2 and 3 coins, I think. (So if Hunting Party were in Alchemy, maybe it would cost P3.)

    • chesskidnate says:

      Notably, it should be considered that potions will sometimes be dead cards later on and have a tendency to make you overpay for things(without + buy 6coins and a potion could be a tough decision and a waste) so I’d estimate that things with potions in the cost should probably cost 3-4 less than cards without potion. P2 sounds good for hunting party considering the potion being a weakness later on. Note that a familiar for 6 would probably be a bit too strong whereas one for 7 could be about right. p.s. this is an analysis based on not enforcing the 3-5 rule and when not enforcing it you’ll usually see many boards with one alchemy card. potions being worthless later on isn’t true for alchemist/vineyard but when your only getting it for a card like hp the potions roughly counteracting the first hp

  8. ipofanes says:

    I recently experimented with a Hunting Party and a Counting House and figured that Hunting Parties allowed me to just fill the discard with enough Copper to make the House effective. Of course, the cautionary remark on “all your deck in the discard” holds even more so when playing with Counting House. It hurts to read the dreaded “(You reshuffle)” after drawing the only non-duplicate as the first card.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Excellent article.

    I’d like to comment about my best game using Hunting Party:

    The game talk by itself: I have just used forge to “trash” my useless cards: all except by HPs, forge, peddler and provinces. =)

  10. Asklepios says:

    The more I play with Hunting Party, the more clear it becomes how important awareness of reshuffle is with it, more so than any other card in Dominion that I can think of.

    As observed in the article above typically when you buy Hunting Party, you’re looking at getting lots of them, playing a whole chain of them and having maybe two or three other non-province bought cards in total. One of those cards is going to be silver. The other may be a single gold, or it may be a single terminal action that doesn’t draw cards.

    The worst possible thing to do is to draw one card when Hunting Party has put all the dross in your discard, as it means the next 1-2 turns you won’t be drawing Hunting Parties. This means planning buys from Turn 1. Its one of those odd situations where a Woodcutter is a lot better than a Worker’s Village, and where a Mountebank is vastly superior to a Torturer or Witch. Hell, its one of those situations where even a CHANCELLOR becomes a vaguely decent choice of terminal action, as its the action that maximises the chances of drawing your Hunting Parties again in your next hand. In fact, a Hunting Party game with something like Nomad Camp in it would probably be a strong candidate for me ignoring even the most powerful drawing cards (like Wharf). Another nice candidate for the single terminal action is a non-drawing deck thinner, like Ambassador. In fact, I’d have to say that Ambassador is probably my favourite choice of card to pair with Hunting Party. You can draw it every turn, you can reduce your decks variety, you can deal with curses, you can reduce the likelihood of your opponent drawing Hunting Parties.

    Another thing to think about, in my opinion, is the timing of greening in a 2-buy Hunting Party game. Personally, if I draw $10 with 2 buys and the Province pile is still well stocked, I’d go for 2 more Hunting Parties rather than a Province, as the added drawing power is going to save me more than one turn later.

    I think its possible to play a complex deck that incorporates Hunting Parties, but you need the kingdom to be exceptionally strong to consider doing so. Almost always, Hunting Party’s presence means the simple solution is the best one. How simple to go is a hard question. In a straight money game, its pretty obvious that you buy one gold then spend $5-7 on Hunting Parties from then on. But if you mix in a single terminal action, it starts becoming questionable whether you want that single gold at all, or maybe just another Hunting Party. With Colony games it gets even more complicated, because you haev to consider where Platinum fits in. I’m still not 100% sure, but I think if the opportunity to skip straight from silver to platinum arises it should be seized, and then gold should be avoided for the rest of the game.

    Finally, I’d observe that another card that clashes with Hunting Party is Duchy, and this probably represents the cards greatest weakness. Buying a Duchy disrupts the Hunting Party chaining significantly, so in a Province game you have to be fast enough to win without their help. I think in the very late game buying a Duchy or two may be justifiable, but there’s always that mid game dilemma of having $5 spare, no more Hunting Parties to buy, and the Duchies sat there looking tempting. I call Duchy the weakness of Hunting Party, as an opponent who pursues a different non-HP strategy (say BM+2 smithies, or doublejack) is free to claim those Duchies with much less disruption to their deck.

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