Hinterlands: Jack of All Trades

Jack of All Trades

Dominion: Hinterlands

No one saw it coming.

It seemed so innocent.  Gain a Silver, it said.  OK, but didn’t someone say Silvers weren’t that great?  Inspect the top of your deck, it said.  Like a half-Spy, who cares.  Draw up to 5, it said.  So it replaces itself, but doesn’t give me an Action.  Big whoop.  Trash a non-Treasure card, it said.  So I get to use it three times for my Estates and that’s it?  What is the point of this card?

Jack of All Trades shares characteristics with many cards.  It has Library‘s ability to replenish your hand after you get hit with Militia — but, befitting its name, isn’t great at it. It spies, it trashes, it gains you Treasure, but does none of those as well as other cards.

And yet it doesn’t need to.  As it turns out, the card Jack is most similar to is Envoy, because like Envoy, all you need is Jack (two to be precise), and you’ve got an engine that beats pretty much every bad strategy out there.  But unlike Envoy/Big Money, DoubleJack/Big Money crushes attacks.  Sea Hag?  Trash the Curse.  Militia?  Draw back up.  Rabble?  Chuck the Victory card.  And all throughout it’s gaining Silver.  Attacks barely matter at all to DoubleJack: in the simulators,* it obliterates Sea Hag/Big Money and DoubleMilitia, solidly beats ChapelWitch and ChapelMountebank, and goes toe-to-toe with DoubleMountebank and DoubleWitch.

DoubleJack threatens something that no other mindless Big Money bot threatened before: an engine viable enough to beat attacks.  The cruelest part about this is that like Envoy/Big Money, you can’t add anything to DoubleJack.  Maybe Hamlet, or Treasury, or a few other cards would help the engine, but just about everything else you can think of only gums up the engine.  So it’s not even like you can use it as a launching pad onto other strategies; you’re playing suboptimally if you do.  Zzz.

DoubleJack isn’t unbeatable.  It fares poorly against mega-turn decks, and in multiplayer games, you aren’t going to get far with it with three Mountebanks pounding you in between each of your turns.  But it raises the Big Money baseline in an unprecedented way: it’s not significantly faster than Smithy/Big Money, but it sure is a lot harder to stop.

The real lesson to be learned here is that being able to do multiple things at once in the early game is really, really helpful.  Masquerade is the top $3 card in the game because it improves your buying power AND thins your deck.  Only the truly insane single-use cards (Chapel, Sea Hag) can compete with cards that accomplish multiple early game objectives. And Jack does it all: it trashes, it gives you a full turn, and it adds in a Silver for good measure.  On a mediocre board, there’s not much that can stop two Jacks of All Trades.

Works with:

  • Hamlet, Market, Treasury: non-terminals that either disappear from your hand or provide some other meaningful benefit AND do not increase your hand size
    • The key here really is the $5 cards, since you don’t really want Silver but you can’t afford Gold.  Most of the $5 cards will hurt, but some won’t get in the way.
    • See yaron’s post in the comments
  • Another copy of Jack

Conflicts with:

  • Multiplayer games
  • Caravan, Lab, other handsize-increasers (oddly enough)
  • Very strong, very fast combinations
  • Mega-turn strategies like Native Village/Bridge
  • Colony games hurt, but do not completely cripple DoubleJack

* The power of Jack (specifically, the DoubleJack bot) is definitely one of the biggest discoveries yet from the simulators, and it’s one that certainly would not have been immediately obvious to human players.

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27 Responses to Hinterlands: Jack of All Trades

  1. Anonymous says:

    Festival tends to work for me in a similar fashion to Hamlet.

  2. WanderingWinder says:

    Festival particularly, but also Fishing Village work great with it. It’s also not as good for colony games, though it’s still not like weak.

  3. Perd Hapley says:

    This card is so good at defending against discard attacks that it can take a full hit from King’s Court/Torturer while trashing a curse, entirely replacing your hand, AND gaining you a silver. If that’s not a testament to it’s durability, I don’t know what is.

  4. Yuma says:

    It might be an effective strategy, but I consider it a highly boring one. I played it a couple of times with a buddy just now and won 3 of 4 against a variety of different cards, but didn’t feel like it was a lot of fun. “just about everything else you can think of only gums up the engine. So it’s not even like you can use it as a launching pad onto other strategies; you’re playing suboptimally if you do.” It is hard to imagine a card that lets you do 3 different things at once be boring, but it was for me. I did win tho, and I would normally take boring over losing any day.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Native Village gets really silly with the ‘Jack too.

  6. Anonymous says:

    ‘Jack gets pretty silly with Native Village too.

  7. Yaron says:

    Councilroom.com can give us the cards that best complement Jack of All Trades as openers. Unsurprisingly, most of them don’t replace themselves, which works well with drawing back to 5.
    In order:

    Lighthouse: Money, handsize reduction, protection. According to CR, Lighthouse is the best Jack complement by far. It’s #3 on the CR list because it has high variance. This means that it’s probably the best, but it hasn’t been played enough to be sure (probably because buying a 2-coster with 3 is deemed suboptimal).

    Fishing Village: Same as above, except you get actions instead of protection.

    Menagerie: Can’t really explain this one. It does have very high variance, so it hasn’t been tested a lot. Perhaps it’s a fluke? Needs more testing.

    Shantytown: Win/Win. If you don’t have a Jack in hand, draw 2. If you do have one, drawing 0 is fine.

    Loan: Hey ‘Jack! you get the Estates, I’ll handle the Coppers.

    Lookout: Trash while you reduce handsize. Can handle Coppers (should we trash Coppers over Estates when using Lookout with ‘Jack?).

    Masquerade: Another surprise. This one has high variance, too. Needs more testing.

    Chapel: Everything’s good with Chapel.

    Oasis: money, see more cards while still reducing your hand. This is slightly surprising, because
    discarding an Estate to Oasis conflicts with trashing it to Jack.

    Silver: Always available, so the list ends here.

    • chwhite says:

      With Oasis: you don’t discard Estates, you discard Coppers (and Provinces!) and hope the Jack draws you Silver instead.

    • DStu says:

      I didn’t get the Lookout-Jack to beat the DoubleJack, but we will see if someone comes up with something:

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe menagerie and masque are just really good period? Or perhaps they are frequently played by very good players who aren’t yet convinced that doublejack is the way to go, or who are using jack in a different strategy, such as festival/jack. I have to wonder if cartographer would be a decent one-shot if you’re stuck w/ 5 as it could sift out masses of copper/provinces, prevent 2 jack hands, and set up a very specific draw if you play it w/ jack in the same turn. Plus w/ the peek ability, jack won’t make you draw it dead.

  8. Geronimoo says:

    I wonder if Donald realized how strong this was. Probably not, or he would have toned it down a notch.

    • chris says:

      It’s not really that strong, it’s just very consistent at being as strong as it is. At the same time, a Jack deck isn’t hitting back, so it doesn’t do anything to stop your opponent from assembling a megaturn deck, even on boards where trying to do so would be quite vulnerable to attacks that are there on the same board.

      Also, it’s not as good in Colony games — that’s where the idea that silver’s not so great came from in the first place.

      Ultimately, I think the fact that a Jack bot beats other bots says more about what kinds of cards bots can play effectively than about the effectiveness of Jack in actual gameplay. It’s a good card, but nowhere near as dominating in human hands as it is for bots.

      Also, the fact that Jack conflicts with a lot of other actions isn’t really that surprising to me — it’s a terminal draw, isn’t it? Terminal draws have had trouble working with other actions since Smithy. It could still work fine with some kingdom treasures — Loan is mentioned above, but also possibly Contraband (when you happen to have exactly $5), Venture or even IGG (for a Jack deck that *does* hit back). (Although both of the latter are also susceptible to Jack’s main weakness, copper. Maybe Jack can coexist with Spice Merchant? Sure, you will occasionally draw SM from Jack, but not very often; meanwhile, SM can be nonterminal when it needs to be, and most importantly, trashes copper. And you really only need one, so it doesn’t slow you down much on the way to accumulating Gold.)

      • Geronimoo says:

        It probably depends on which human hands the Jack is in. My “effect with” on Councilroom is 1.6, while yours is -0.85 (I’m guessing you’re chwhite). The Jack just fits my play style perfectly which is mostly big money, while I know you’re an avid engine builder and Jack sure doesn’t like engines.
        In my opinion Jack is going to be dominant on the majority of Province boards since few contain the possibility of a mega engine.

        • chwhite says:

          Nope, different chris.

          • chris says:

            I am a bit of an engine builder, though. But I sometimes open one Jack to get rid of estates, gain some silver, defend against attacks etc. and then do something else — it may be an irrevocable commitment for a bot, but not necessarily for a player. (Particularly if something like Remodel is around.)

            Also, another card that I have found to work well with Jack: Scheme. Two Jacks can crash and there’s really nothing you can do about it, but Jack and Scheme only conflict if you draw the Scheme off the Jack, which only happens if you discarded your top card or were hit with a handsize reducer. Also, you can open Jack/Scheme (usually) since Scheme only costs 3. It’s even better if your deck gets big enough that you want to pick up a second Scheme — it’s much safer than picking up a third Jack, and will let you consistently Jack turn after turn.

  9. jonts26 says:

    In his secret histories, Donald said he created Jack as a sort of after the fact moat. This helps explain why it’s so resilient to attacks.

  10. Geronimoo says:

    theory, could you remove the “conflicts with multiplayer”. In 2-player games doubleJack will actually be beaten by Mountebank, but doubleJack wins TWICE as many games in a 4-player game where the 3 other guys are going for Mountebank (it’s very easy to simulate, just put the default Jack bot up against 3 Mountebanks).

    • theory says:

      Wow, I don’t understand — what’s the theoretical basis for that?

      • Geronimoo says:

        It’s quite simple really: in a 2-player game, the Mountebank player can do his thing: attack and improve his deck, while the Jack defends and improves his deck. In a multi-player game the Mountebank gets attacked as well, but has no defence so will suffer far more than the Jack player.

        • Anonymous says:

          If Jack is meant to be an “after the fact moat”, it makes sense that it would scale upwards in multiplayer games in a similar way that Moat does. It may not be as complete a defence as in 2p (ie it’ll be harder to get rid of every single Curse), but it’ll be a heck of a lot better than someone with no defence at all.

  11. LastFootnote says:

    You know, kingdom cards that are Treasures don’t gum up a Jack engine at all. No one ever seems to take that into account. Royal Seal, Venture, Bank, and others work just great with Jack.

  12. Biodiesel says:

    I recently played Jack/Spice Merchant/Big Money and did well with it. I wonder how it compares to Double Jack. Spice Merchant can trash your coppers while Jack handles the Estates, and on some turns you get to play both.

  13. Anonymous says:

    King’s court jack

  14. Anonymous says:

    Just won with Jack/Shanty Town/Spice Merchant. 13 Turns. Combines the best of Jack/Spice (trashing both starting card types), and Jack/Shanty (Draw cards either way).

  15. Alex Zorach says:

    I found Upgrade to work well with Jack. It costs 5, is non-terminal, and can trash coppers (which is one of the weaknesses of Jack). It also can be used late-game to turn a Jack into a duchy if you have enough in your hand to buy the last province.

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