Honorable Mention: Golem
It’s crazy effective in an Action-heavy deck. It keeps your engine flowing even while it’s greening. It acts as a source of fake +Actions. It cycles your deck to keep playing devastating attacks. It is great for a no-Treasure engine. It leads to complex, crazy combos with Counting House or Tactician/Library.
But none of that matters when you play Golem with a hand of two Provinces, and it draws Trading Post …
Probably the most underappreciated card in Dominion. Apothecary/Warehouse, Apothecary/Native Village, and probably countless more combos are surprisingly dominant, and the common theme throughout is that it’s really hard to slow down a deck that is built around what can potentially be a +1 Action / +5 Cards card.
The major criticism is that it doesn’t really blend well into many standard engines. Its +1 Action / +1 Card means it’s never truly bad, but it doesn’t shine nearly as brightly as when you build your deck around taking advantage of its unique abilities.
Setting aside how annoying Alchemist chains are on Isotropic (both to clean up and to watch), the ability to keep Labs on your deck is just unbelievably awesome. It means you never have draw problems, and that you can (almost) always combo your Alchemists with King’s Courts and Throne Rooms. It’s kind of vulnerable to handsize attacks, but I’d rather have a good hand that I might be forced to discard some of than a bad hand any day.
Of course, you have to keep drawing the Potion … hmm … if only there was a way to keep increasing your handsize so you could draw the Potion … hmm … oh right! With Herbalist or Cellar, Alchemist gets absolutely obscene, since once you get two or three of them they can stay on your deck almost forever.
Despite its awkward cost, Vineyard is one of the very best alternative VP strategies. 1 VP for 3 Actions, as it turns out, is a very good deal when you’re building a deck full of King’s Courts and such, which coincidentally happens to be the kind of deck that benefits from alternative VP strategies anyway. It has excellent synergy with most of the other Alchemy cards that depend on Actions, but is sometimes worthwhile even when it’s the only Potion card on the board. It does heavily, heavily depend on a source of +Buy, because otherwise it is a total pain trying to buy them.
In a way, Vineyard is the defining card of Alchemy. It’s an excellent example of how Alchemy has more than just a Potion theme; it’s themed around playing as many Actions as possible.
2. Scrying Pool
Scrying Pool is almost a cheat, since it lets you build giant Action chains without any of the +Cards ordinarily needed to draw them all. It’s rather dependent on trashing, but if you can get your deck thinned and consisting mostly of Actions, it makes Action decks significantly easier to get going. It’s usually dependent on some source of +Actions so you can play all of your Actions, but with the possible exception of King’s Court, no other card generates turn logs as ridiculous as Scrying Pool.
It’s truly upsetting, having Familiar at #1, but there was no way around it. Familiar is probably the best attack in the game so far, and one of the only attacks that can be chained without sputtering out. Plus, it’s not total crap after the Curses are gone, it’s great Apprentice/Salvager fuel … ugh!
About the only thing it’s kind of vulnerable to is Horse Traders, since you’ll be dependent on it to move through your deck after the Curses are gone, and each play lets your opponent potentially increase his handsize by one. But this is nitpicking. Aside from its cost, there’s no reason not to get a Familiar.
Also, like all curse-giving cards, Familiar is a little vulnerable to Trader. In the right situation (e.g. Council Room?) skipping potions and buying lots of Traders should have a fighting chance against Familiars.
I somewhat missed the pictures in this article!
Fixed. My mistake.
Ah, I thought it wan on prupose. It’s way better to look at now, thanks =)
Alchemist may be somewhat vulnerable to most handsize attacks, but it is just destroyed by Minions.
Similarly, I like to play Masquerade against opponents who spam Alchemist.
Actually a pure Familiar + Money strategy will get crushed by a Trader + Money strategy. And you don’t need no Council Rooms (although they will be nice once you’ve Traded into a few Silvers)
Familiar sometimes isn’t worth buying against potionless curse cards right?
I believe you meant to say that Apothecary can “potentially” give +1 Action / +5 Cards.
Corrected. I think both are acceptable terms but “potentially” is probably better.
Familiar on both the bad and good cards list? That must mean it’s so bad, it’s good.
Actually it’s the other way around. It’s so good that it’s bad [because it becomes “swingy”].
You mention there’s no village in Alchemy; however, I believe university was designed as the “village” of the alchemy set.
Well that’s a brain fart!
Blast of pedantry: No “Disclaimer” for this one?
In other news: solid post… I’ve never really explored Vineyard too much, but its power is becoming more apparent to me.
Vineyard is especially great when you have that extra potion and a + buy. I haven’t fully abused that, but I have had opponents really make use of that.
What makes familiar better salvager fuel than any other cursing attack? Apprentice gives you +extra cards for the potion cost, but I’m pretty sure Salvager gives +$3 when you trash a familiar.
Also, from my experience, Familiar is also bad against superior trashing, like chapel, or remake if there are some good non terminal $3 (early wishing well immediately comes to mind).
I think there is one big problem with the familiar. Spending. You have to buy a potion, which might be useless for anything else, and then have to buy the familiars. Each familiar purchase could have been a silver and you will often miss that silver if you can’t win the game through cursing.
This is a good point. I almost never go for Fam when there are other cursers on the board, and, as Geronimoo points out, it will be too slow for some BM strategies.
Although I agree with Golem being on place 6 (“Honorable Mention”), your point about its risk with trashing cards is somewhat unrealistic: As you say, it skips all your green and – unlike Adventurer – all your Coppers, too. So you can determine what action it will hit and you surely want to make sure those actions are no cards that can trash your Province or at least that the other card can be played before and draw you other cards in hand.
I thought alchemist would be higher up but I agree with the list for once ;P
Personally I’d also rate Alchemist as #2, mainly because it has a broader use in general. Vineyard and Scrying Pool all depend very much on the board, while Alchemist is good in almost every setup.
I would not say that:
Without +buys it is very rare to set up an Alchemist engine that can catch up the difference of someone just going BM + non-potion actions, because his engine will allow him to buy a Province every turn faster and you also don’t do much with $22 worth of cards in hand and just 1 buy. Also +buy helps with any potion cards to seperate the excessive money into something different (like 6+P => Alchemist + TR). To sum it up: Alchemist is very different from Lab, because it costs more but can do more, and without +buy it sometimes costs too much to be worth it.
My rating would be:
#1 Apothecary, […] #2 Familiar, #3 Alchemist, #4 Scrying Pool, #5 Vineyard
The big gap between Apothecary and the rest is because of 3 reasons:
1. $2+P is way easier to get than $3+P, thus you can start Silver+Potion without risking a
dead hand of $2+P that you have to buy a $2 card with (or nothing).
This is the main reason to rate it higher than Familiar.
2. You always have Copper in your deck at the start. About 3x Apothecary in Deck manage to get you to $6 or $7 fast and reliably and lets you totally skip Silver in favour of a fast Gold.
3. It draws more cards than Alchemist and thus cycles your deck faster, which lets you play attacks more often.
(4. Not mentioned the combos you can do with Apothecary e.g. Wishing Well and NV)
tl;dr: Apothecary > all
I once had a Deck with 2 Golems and 2 Familiars, the Chain never ended once I had all my Gold, estates and potion in my hand since I would keep drawing familiars allowing me to draw and do a golem again to draw the familiar again.
Played cards do not go into the discard pile.
Apprentice and Herbalist can be put here as “Really good with potion cards” honorable mention.
I love Vineyard and Scrying Pool. The beauty of Vineyard is that you can commit to going for practically nothing but action cards and a couple of Potions. Once you get to 18 action cards, it’s worth a Province. At 30 it’s worth a Colony. And here’s the big thing: you aren’t dependent on having several treasures together to buy one. All you need is one Potion in your hand. Hand size attacks don’t bother you (except for maybe the rare “discard to 3” + Torturer + Torturer). You’re only limited by the times you hit your potions, so deck-cyclers and Herbalists are helpful.
Scrying Pool, of course, synergizes beautifully, since you aren’t accumulating cards that stop it from drawing further.
Does Apprentice make this list when it’s re-calculated to incorporate Dark Arts? It combos well with: Squire (free attack!), Cultist (mega-draw!), Rats (gives 5 cards, makes Rats not suck), Catacombs (free 4-cost card), Feodums (+4 cards, 3 silvers), Fortress (great draw, set up huge action chain), Market Square (trash something else, gain a gold), Hunting Grounds (+6 cards, gain a duchy, great in the late game), Overgrown Estate (Apprentice pretends it’s a normal Estate , basically), and even good Sir Vander (+5 cards, gain a gold). It was already a pretty good card, but the combo of trash-for-benefit and on-trash benefit can be amazing.
Apprentice is an awesome card no doubt! But this list was only ranking cards with potion in their cost. Since Apprentice costs 5 coins it is ineligible for this list.