The Five Worst $4 Cards, 2011

Disclaimer: Dominion does a really great job of balancing its Kingdom cards.  Every card has some situations where it shines, and some situations where it doesn’t.  Nevertheless, some cards just end up being flat-out better than others, either because they are more useful more often, or just ridiculously good when they are useful.  Don’t expect this list to be objective.

Qvist has started a community card ranking project.  The community’s $4 card ranking can be found here.

The common theme uniting the bad $4 cards is tempo.  In an infinitely long game, each of these cards would serve some useful purpose.  In practice, you only have five cards in your hand, and usually less than twenty turns to accomplish something useful.



Honorable Mention: Spy

Spy is the one card on this list that isn’t situational.  Unlike the terminal $4’s, Spy’s presence almost never hurts your deck.  Your Jester flips over an opponent’s Spy?  Sure, why not take it!  Your opponent Swindles your Caravans into Spies?  Not a huge deal.

The flip side of this, of course, is that there is never a situation that you need Spies.  Its own attack is pathetically weak, and its sifting power is too limited and too uncertain.  It certainly combos well with deck-inspection attacks like Jester and Thief, but it costs too much tempo and resources to build up elaborate Spy-Spy-Spy-Jester chains.

So in that sense, Spy had to be the Honorable Mention.  It doesn’t overtly hurt your deck, but the opportunity cost is too much.

Pirate Ship

Dominion: Seaside

5. Pirate Ship

Every Dominion player tends to pass through four distinct and recognizable phases with respect to Pirate Ship, otherwise known as the What, Wow, Why, and Hey … phases.

  1. What is the point of this card?
  2. Wow, this card is unstoppably strong!
  3. Why do I keep losing with Pirate Ship?
  4. Hey, Pirate Ship is actually pretty bad …

The final analysis is that Pirate Ship tends to help your opponent(s) more than it helps you.  In certain rare Kingdoms, where you can’t generate money from Actions and Villages proliferate, Pirate Ship remains the best answer.  More commonly, you get your Pirate Ships up to about $3 or $4 before your opponent’s engine kicks into gear, thanks to you trashing their Coppers.  Many engines that are otherwise too slow to set up get a big boost thanks to opposing Pirate Ships.


Dominion: Intrigue

4. Coppersmith

Coppersmith is the archetype for all situational $4 cards.  When it shines, it really shines; when it is bad, it’s really bad.

Unfortunately, the latter is more common than the former.  What Coppersmith needs is big draw coupled with lots of Coppers.  In practice, you can’t get that much reliable draw with many Coppers in your deck.  Aside from edge cases like Tactician/Coppersmith/Warehouse, most of the time, Coppersmith either lacks the handsize for its Coppers, or lacks the Coppers for its handsize.  And so it’s situational, but its situation happens to be inherently contradictory.

Add to the fact that it’s terminal, and you find yourself with a big liability if it doesn’t work out.  Sure, on Turns 3 and 4 you might get away with a +$3, but as the game goes on you never match the same level of Copper density, and Coppersmith becomes “Spend an Action for +$1”.


Dominion: Prosperity

3. Talisman

Talisman is a fine card in theory, but stumbles simply because it can’t keep up tempo-wise in modern Dominion.  There’s a limit to how many $4’s you want or need before you move onto the $5’s and $6’s.  Losing a buy cycle to get a Copper that helps you with getting more $4’s means you need some kind of special game plan built around a deck of non-Victory cards that cost $4’s or lower.  Good luck with that.

It does combo with Quarry and other cost-reducers, but then only works when you have enough +Buy to make up for the lost tempo.  Even Workshop, its close cousin, is better because at the cost of an Action, Workshop allows you more flexibility in what you buy.  The dilemma of drawing $5 with your Talisman is one that Talisman has never been able to solve satisfactorily.  It takes too long to set it up for cards that you usually only want in the early game anyway.


Dominion: Intrigue

2. Scout

Like Menagerie, Scout is one of those cards that is best when played with the set it was released with.  Unlike Menagerie, Scout has significantly worse otherwise.  In Kingdoms full of mixed Victory cards (like Nobles, Harem, and Great Hall), Scout serves a nice useful role by reliably and consistently drawing multiple useful cards at once, like a mini-Scrying Pool.  But this isn’t true of most Kingdoms, where Scout is crippled by the fact that it doesn’t always draw a card to replace itself, and that it won’t be drawing anything that helpful.

Its deck-reordering is even worse.  Scout/Wishing Well/Wishing Well is one of those combos that seems like it would work well the first time you try it, before you realize that you’ve spent way too much time setting up what is essentially a single Menagerie.

Perhaps the real reason Scout suffers is that right when cards like Scrying Pool shine (the engine buildup phase) is when you have the lowest proportion of green cards in your deck.  Scout is never part of an engine, only as part of cleanup.



1. Thief

By popular demand, Thief is in its rightful spot at #1.  How bad is Thief?  It is the only card to have been directly upgraded in a later expansion by another card at the same cost.  And while the jury’s still out on whether Noble Brigand is actually effective (preliminary thoughts are no), you’d really have to be grasping at straws to justify purchasing a Thief but not a Noble Brigand.

Not that this is bad for the game.  You needed some kind of Thief in the base game, and Noble Brigand did not belong in base Dominion.  And it’s probably better to address balance issues than to just ignore the problem and hope it all goes away.

But still.  Thief is at best a situational card in multiplayer games, and a severe liability in just about every 2-player game.  Originally considered or intended as a counter to Chapel, it’s simply too slow to catch up with thin decks.  Stealing Treasures is too much of a delayed benefit for your own deck, so in practice Thief’s main benefit is killing your opponents’ buying power by wiping out their Treasure.  But this is only really effective if you have an abundance of Actions and Throne Room/King’s Court, and these are exactly the kind of Kingdoms where you probably don’t want Treasure in your deck anyway.

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60 Responses to The Five Worst $4 Cards, 2011

  1. brokoli says:

    I’m sure in this list, there are only two (very) bad cards : Scout and Thief. But I can imagine some cases where thief is better than a silver (for insistance, chapel/treasure map). But I would take scout instead of silver almost never. Well, only if the silver is embargoed…

  2. Asklepios says:

    Great article.

    Re: Thief, I think it is certainly a weak card, and I’d agree that in a two player game opening Thief is always a mistake.

    Having said that, I think that like all Dominion card it does have an occasional role to play, even in two player games.

    For example, in the mid-late game of a chapel rush, I think there could be some mileage in buying a thief if you fall short of both gold and province. Arguably a silver might be as good, but if you’re looking to lose the province race, gambling on thief (and it is a gamble) could become a worthwhile risk, as you know your opponent has no more coppers (so you’re avoiding the downside of thinninghis deck) and you know that taking a gold off him will mess up his treasure density and greatly increase your own, perhaps swinging a 3-4 turn advantage to you.

    As a second example, if you have a deck that is drawing full out, and your opponent is relying on a few big treasure cards, and you have a second buy with $4 spare, I think a thief might be worthwhile again. Sure, a silver might increase your buying power better next turn, but that might also clash with your engine (if, say, you are relying on scrying pools for drawing). In that case, it MIGHT be worth risking a thief to have the potential of severely slowing your opponents deck, even if its low odds that it’ll hit.

    Yes, these are clearly edge case scenarios. Thats why thief deserves its spot at number one. But I still think there is SOME role for thief in two player.

    • Cow says:

      i’ve won a game using Thief to pick off platinums in a thin deck scenario. Thief is useful in thin decks in general, but it’s certainly a terrible early buy and in general I find cards like thief and brigand annoying regardless of which side plays them. Using thief to snatch a platinum out of a thin deck is enormously swingy.

  3. Asklepios says:

    Oh, as to the first replyers comment – I think Scout is better than Thief because Scout can actively be a part of a few engines. Crossroads, for example, or Nobles, or Harem.

    Thief is almost never the core of the engine, its just a card that you might, very very rarely, think is better than a silver in some circumstances (i.e. when you are on a track to losing and need a luck-based swing to put you back in the game).

  4. chris says:

    I think this list may suffer from excessive two-player-centrism, especially with regard to the attacks. It’s widely known that balance differs slightly (and for some cards not so slightly) depending on the number of players, and IIRC Donald has described three-player as the most balanced, or what he had as the goal when balancing, or something like that. It’s fair to point out that a card is weaker in two-player, but rating it as bad overall simply because it’s bad in two-player shows a lack of perspective, IMO.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the description of progression of player attitudes toward Pirate Ship, except that you left off the last step: realizing that it’s good on some boards and bad on others, and how to recognize which kind of board you’re on. Sometimes you can beat the pirates, other times you have to join them. Ultimately I’m not sure it belongs on this list at all — if there were a separate list of often misbought/misplayed cards, sure.

    P.S. It’s also not true that spy can never hurt you: terminal draws can make it worse than Copper. Decks with terminal draws in them are pretty common in my experience, so you really have to think about that before picking up cantrips, including Spy.

  5. olneyce says:

    Love the Douglas Adams reference!

  6. chwhite says:

    I’m a little surprised Pirate Ship made it onto this list and Noble Brigand didn’t. I guess I can see why, in that one of the big value of these lists is to be educational for newer players, who are more likely to overvalue Pirate Ship… but I still find Brigand to be useful less often, and that’s without even accounting for the jump in effectiveness it gets with 3 or 4. The only other thing which I really disagree with is Spy, even at honorable mention. It is really weak, true, but Spy is often a great “lubricant” in certain engines that require high Action density (Conspirator, Scrying Pool, Vineyards), and it’s less often a terrible buy than quite a few cards which didn’t make the list. Personally I’d rather have seen Treasure Map come back, or something.

    A couple other little nitpicks on the text: Talisman does have one other great synergy (in addition to Quarry) which can make it a good buy, and which pushes it to even with Workshop in my mind: Peddler. You can’t soak up the Peddler stack with Workshop or Ironworks, but you can with Talisman, because it works in the buy phase.

    As for Scout: Scout/Wishing Well is actually worse than a single Menagerie: if your Scout draws nothing but sets up a successful Wish, then you still have five cards in hand, same as you started (and same as a fizzled Menagerie). You can only get card advantage if you draw Victory cards (which has a mild cycling benefit but is unlikely to help your current hand, so there’s basically no way you’ll do as well as an activated Menagerie.

    • shmerker says:

      That’s why the combo is Scout/Wishing Well/Wishing Well. You use a scout to set up two successful wishes. It only really works that way though if none of the next four cards are green.

      • michaeljb says:

        So using 3 cards from your hand to draw 4 cards…if you had not bought the Scout or either Wishing Well, you would have drawn 3 of those 4 cards anyway, so really that “combo” is a very elaborate Laboratory…pretty bad, I have to say.

    • GigaKnight says:

      I’m always aware of my middling ranking when I post on threads like this but, what the hell, if I don’t throw it out there, I won’t learn…

      I also disagree with the idea that Spy is terrible. Yeah, it’s a weak attack, but it doesn’t usually take much attack to turn a $5 or a $6 hand into a significantly-less-valuable $4 hand. It’s also pretty heartbreaking to see a core component of your engine fly by. Top players talk about how important it is to manage shuffles and Spy can totally disrupt an opponent’s shuffle management while helping your engine.

      I guess the biggest argument against Spy is that you never really see it and think “Yes! THAT will be part of my strategy!” It’s usually a consolation buy when you couldn’t hit 5+, but it’s really rare that I’d turn down a Spy in my deck. There are a lot more situations in which I explicitly DON’T want other cards on this list (and some that weren’t listed like Nomad Camp, Treasure Map, and Feast, for starters). Maybe there should be a “The Five Most Meh $4 Cards” list and we can all talk about how neutral we feel about the selectees.

      As an aside, I think it’s a testament to the strength of Dominion’s design that a generally-useful card like Spy falls this low on the rankings.

      • WanderingWinder says:

        The problem is that way way way more often, silver will just be better. So while spy will, in the vast majority of cases, help your deck, that’s not the question. The question is ‘will spy help my deck more than the other options?’, and one of those options is (almost) always silver, which is quite usually better. Well, basically silver is always better unless you’re building an engine (well, at some point in colony games, spy is better), and if you’re building an engine, there’s probably some other component at 2, 3, or 4 that you prefer.

        • GigaKnight says:

          I really do get the concept of opportunity cost. Maybe it speaks to my inexperience, but the part that’s hard for me to accept is that a deck-shrinking $4 attack card is usually worse than an in-every-game $3 card. Maybe part of the mismatch is that I am thinking in terms of engine-building and engines just aren’t as common as I’d like them to be or, as you say, the times when you prefer Spy over a cheap engine component are few. Perhaps Spy was simply perceived as better in the base set and, after all these expansions, would be changed a bit in a balance patch, if such a thing were possible.

          • chwhite says:

            I think Spy has actually gotten better since the base set, actually. In a base-only environment, Big Money-esque strategies are generally stronger than engines, and Spy just isn’t worth it for BM. But once you add in the sets which favor engines (Seaside, Alchemy, Cornucopia, and above all Prosperity), then you start increasing the likelihood that Spy is a card you’d rather buy over Silver at least. In base-only, Spy is IMO the second-worst $4, once you add in the expansions I think it leaps over Bureaucrat and Feast, not to mention various bad cards from other expansions.

            • GigaKnight says:

              Interesting point. I just assumed that since it was priced at $4, the designers had played with it and decided $3 was too little. … I was going to say they decided this within the context of the base set’s balance, but then I remembered that many of the cards and concepts were created and moved between sets before the base set was even released. So maybe they were simply fine releasing an under-powered card that would only get a little better with the expansions. Then again, maybe I’ve over-thinking it. 🙂

              I’d like to know where people would rate Spy on the spectrum of $3 cards.

          • WanderingWinder says:

            I’m not sure what you mean by deck-shrinking. It only makes your deck effectually smaller if you discard something poor with it, which will occasionally have a marginal benefit. Again, good, but not so good. In an engine, if you have enough money-production to build up what you need for your engine, it’s going to be better than silver. Only, a bunch of spies don’t really make an engine by themselves, so generally you’re going to have something better to do on your 3s and 4s, (you’re not going to be making engine out of only 5s, or it won’t come together very well in most cases).
            Now, spy is a pretty nice card to have in most cases, a useful addition to most any deck (except big money + a draw card or two). Which is why I’d probably not have it on this list. But it’s just not worth it, given your other options, most of the time.

      • WheresMyElephant says:

        In addition to what WanderingWinder said, the problem with Spy’s attack isn’t just that it’s weak; it’s that it’s unreliable. Half the time it just does NOTHING: if your opponent has an Estate or Copper on top of his deck, you don’t want to discard it for him. A second or third Spy on the same turn will be equally useless; and the more Spies you play, the more likely you are to hit that Estate which will make all further Spies useless. (When it comes to sifting through your own deck with Spy, you don’t have the problem with consecutive Spies getting progressively worse, but there’s still a chance that any given Spy could be totally ineffectual).

        And another problem: if you’re discarding a strong card that otherwise would have missed the reshuffle, there’s a good chance this might not hurt him at all. It might even help him. For instance, if he just bought a King’s Court and your Spy turns up a Wharf which will miss the reshuffle if you leave it, there’s a strong argument for leaving it. Discarding it gives him the chance to draw it along with KC, which could be very strong; but if you leave it he might even play it next turn and draw the KC with no Actions left. (You could argue that the opposite holds for your opponent’s weak cards at the bottom of the draw pile: that you can benefit from discarding them, but even if that’s true it’s surely a really weak attack.)

        $4 for a card that does virtually nothing half the time, and gives a weak attack the other half of the time, is pretty awful.

        Besides, consider what happens if your opponent has very high or very low variance in his deck. Low variance (a deck full of Silver, let’s say) makes Spy pointless: if all his cards are the same, what’s the point in discarding one? But high variance makes it less and less reliable. Seems like you can’t win.

        • GigaKnight says:

          Your variance point touches on another subtlety, which is that if your opponent has a very draw-chain-heavy deck, discarding their top card could be useless. I guess my point is that the relevant variance isn’t really in individual cards, specifically, but in the turns. If they draw their deck every turn, Spy is useless; if they’re playing a deck with no cycling, a good Spy can be devastating. If every card in their deck is the same, it’s equivalent to every turn is the same.

          Your post focuses a lot on the potential ineffectiveness of Spy’s attack and not a lot on its effect on your own deck. It’s not just a virtual card; it also shrinks your effective deck size by helping you sift. Maybe it just doesn’t do it enough to matter in a game that typically lasts 15-20 turns. Or maybe it’s just that the sea of good sifters since the base set have made it irrelevant.

          Part of my previous post’s point, though, wasn’t to say that Spy is excellent, just that it isn’t terrible. It doesn’t feel like one of the worst $4’s, just one of the most bland. Even so, it seems like a mistake to disregard it as too useless or irrelevant to consider buying, as it does have a place in more kingdoms than I think it gets credit for.

  7. Zachal says:

    Just a question about a reference I missed – there’s a link here to A Few Acres of Snow alluding to its balancing issues and I’m wondering what the trouble is. I was considering trying to get into it after having such a fantastic time with Dominion.

    • Jorbles says:

      I can’t remember the details, but there’s apparently a strategy that dominates the game that the developer of the game has stuck his head in the sand about hoping people will stop noticing.

    • ftl says:

      A summary is at , posted by Theory. I’ll quote it here:


      * AFAoS is made
      * Soon after, someone discovers that the British has an unstoppably strong strategy. From what I understand, it is basically the realization that trashing is good for your deck in this game. How no one thought of playtesting a deck-thinning strategy in a deck-building game I cannot understand.
      * Lots of flamewars, with tons of Martin Wallace zealots insisting to the end that there is no way the game could be imbalanced
      * out4blood goes 64-0 online playing nothing but the strategy. People continue to defend Martin Wallace.
      * After months of silence, in a rather snarky post, Martin Wallace releases a “fix” that he claims is just a “variant scenario” for the game, while denying that there is anything wrong.
      * The fix does not help. British continues to be unstoppably strong.
      * Martin Wallace admits the game is flawed and believes there is no way to remedy the balance issue except by introducing more “variant scenarios” every now and then, which is equivalent to P1 always wins in Dominion, but let’s just keep releasing new sets of 10 cards so that P1 always ends up winning a little differently.
      * Martin Wallace also claims every single 2-player wargame ever made is just as broken as his. Which is hugely insulting, speaking as someone who writes a Twilight Struggle blog.
      * Flamewars continue forever. out4blood is now 105-0 as British.

      This was a month ago.

      • Cow says:

        Martin Wallace sounds like a real *ss. Why not just go back to the drawing board and fix it?

        • DG says:

          A few acres of snow is only broken if you read forums and use strategies from forums when playing against your real life friends. A group of friends who play together and don’t read forums can get a lot of enjoyment from the game for a long time. The problem stems from the French and British using different card supplies. This gives the game a lot of flavour and some historically accuracy but allows the British to exploit some strategies more than the French.

          The “every two player wargame is broken” comment is strange but it could well be the case that if you play most two player historical wargames over 100 times then you do often find a 90% winning strategy for one player. This will be particularly true when the luck element is low.

  8. mischiefmaker says:

    Two comments:
    – Pirate Ship is often very strong in multiplayer games, for two reasons: one, since you have two opponents, there’s a much smaller chance of you entirely whiffing and hitting nothing, which is a disastrous result; two, if another player is also ‘Shipping, your treasures may be getting wiped out too quickly even to get to the +$ actions on board, especially if they are $5s. They’re not unbeatable but I think you need to have a plan for dealing with Pirate Ship attacks in multiplayer, whereas in 2p you can often just ignore the attack entirely.
    – Coppersmith goes nicely with Apothecary, which gives you the ability to make those big hands with lots of Copper happen. The deck works much, much better with a bit of sifting (Warehouse), and a +buy is nice, but it’s reasonably competitive on its own.

  9. timchen says:

    Noble brigand is a fine card. Sure, you probably cannot win a game by it single-handedly, On the other hand, two aspects make it significantly better than the two relatives: the pirate ship and the thief. First is that it attacks on buy. So it can just act as a lottery: in mid-late game, I draw this miserable $4, what should I do? Buying one see if I can somehow struck gold is a lot better than getting one additional silver. With the thief it is just too slow in the middle game, and the pirate ship needs build up and one can not attack by surprise. The second aspect is that it has a slight benefit (+1). I like this setting of +1 much more than the far more common +2, as the +2 is really only fitting for more mediocre add-on functions, such as the navigator. With the like of militia or mountebank, +2 really makes them dominating.

  10. Chris Morrow says:

    One situation where Thief may beat Noble Brigand is the presence of one or two really good Kingdom treasures, since Noble Brigand doesn’t steal those. That said, yeah, none of the Theiving Family are all that special (except maybe NB, which I admit I haven’t played with a huge amount).

    They also suffer from containing large walls of text which is intended for precision (and to clarify interaction with Trader), but only confuses new players. And the many steps of the attack raise questions about the precise order in which everything resolves. If I had to take a guess, I would say that all the revealing is simultaneous, then the choosing and trashing of one Treasure happens in clockwise order, then by the Theiving player gains any of the Treasures in an order of his choice (it could matter if, eg, one of the Treasures is Ill-Gotten Gains, or in interactions with Trader and Watchtower). How does that match up with whatever Donald has said on the subject?

    • michaeljb says:

      If I recall correctly, what you wrote does follow precisely the timing rules laid out in the base rulebook. I think it’s stated in general in there–things that happen at the “same time” really happen in turn order, and if it’s happening to one player, that player chooses the order. So in Thief’s case, I think really the revealing would technically happen in turn order as well, but that doesn’t really matter since it all happens before the trashing anyway.

    • vintermann says:

      One of the few times I’ve managed to provoke a ragequit on isotropic, was when fools’ gold was the bane card to young witch. I bought a young witch right away, my opponent bought a fool’s gold. Obviously, there’s no point in buying just one fool’s gold, so we both bought some.

      My young witch got baned every time, but I didn’t mind much, because her digging ability helps bringing the fool’s gold together. It is at this time I spot the thief…

      Two stolen fool’s golds later, my opponent scrambling to steal them back (having caught on to what I was doing as soon as the first was stolen). But he had thinned his deck aggressively (especially wise when you’re going fool’s gold, right? Well, usually!) while he just kept trashing my coppers.

      Thief’s ability to steal kingdom treasures means it can turn some tableaus upside down. Also, that it literally steals them (not “you may gain a copy of the trashed card”, but “you may gain the trashed card”) makes a big difference for decks that get bought out such as fool’s gold.

      Noble brigand has far fewer situations where it’s worth it, IMO.

  11. RisingJaguar says:

    I would like to say that scout actually helps a scrying pool deck not hinder it (or be useless). It makes scrying pool more efficient (by rearranging first card to dump and rearranging actions together, etc.), it doesn’t clog the deck of scrying pool, and it doesn’t use an action. This makes it significantly better than all other mediocre +$2 terminals (in these situations). Of course there are much better $4 cards here for scrying pool, but it does work well together with scrying pool.

    It’s use is different than its intended use, but think a power down apothecary and that works amazing with scrying pool.

  12. kn1tt3r says:

    Reasonable list. I’ve often wondered how strong Thief would have been with the ability to take the stolen card into hand…

    • GigaKnight says:

      Oh, that idea scares me. Thief doesn’t need to be good. 🙂 I strongly dislike the extremely swingy concept at the core of Thief.

      It’s a relief to me that it’s actually widely-recognized as a bad card. Of course, this makes an opponent’s good Thief hit that much more annoying. I (and probably most competitive players) dislike being beaten by clearly-inferior strategies that, by definition, just get lucky. And that’s generally what Thief supports.

      I’d be interested to hear re-imaginings of the Thief concept rather than just improvements like Noble Brigand.

  13. toll_booth says:

    I’m surprised Bureaucrat isn’t on this list. Given the choice between Bureaucrat and Spy, and nothing else, in most cases I’d much rather purchase the Spy. The reason is simple: Even if its attack winds up doing nothing, it replaces itself that turn, and it gives you a card that may or may not be helpful. Also, Bureaucrat’s attack is just about as weak as Spy’s. Most importantly, Bureaucrat has the 6th-lowest win-rate-with in the game–much worse than Spy. (Interestingly, its win-rate-without isn’t terrible, but it’s not good, and it’s almost identical to Spy’s.)

    • toll_booth says:

      Clarification: Bureaucrat gives you a card that may or may not be helpful; Spy replaces itself that turn.

      • WanderingWinder says:

        If you aren’t building an engine, silver is always a useful card. If you are building an engine, well it’s still often useful. Spy is more often useful, though most usually less meaningfully so. So I definitely think bureaucrat is bad, but spy must be worse.

    • chwhite says:

      Bureaucrat was the #1 worst card on the old list, but a lot of us think more highly of it now. It’s since been shown to be a decent addition to Big Money decks, and both the attack and Silver gain are genuinely quite strong in alternate-VP rush decks (Workshop, Silk Road, Duke). It (along with all the Silver-based cards) also got a big boost with Hinterlands, since that set has a) a lot of sifting, b) not a lot of trashing, c) just adding all those cards to the general pool decreases the chance of Colony games, and d) the presence of Jack of All Trades, which demonstrated that Silver-heavy decks could outrace many mediocre engines.

      Mind you, Bureaucrat is still not a particularly good card, and I do rank it below Spy. It’s a horrible addition to most engines or in Colony games, and usually there’s something better anyway. But it’s more useful than it used to be, and I agree with keeping it off this list.

  14. Mole5000 says:

    This list is exceedingly Two Player-centric

    Pirate Ship in 4 player games is a board defining card.

    • WanderingWinder says:

      Well, I’m not a 4-player expert, but from what I’ve seen… it’s generally not actually. Though obviously it’s not like a really bad card in multiplayer.

      • Mole5000 says:

        In my experience (which is obviously not all encompassing) If the 3 players ahead of you all go Pirate Ship and you don’t then you better have a really, really spiffy plan to get your deck generating money before you get completely choked.

        • Mole5000 says:

          And to fore-stall the obvious counter argument, it’s not quite the same as “what if all 3 opponents go Thief as their opener?” because an early thief is just hitting coppers and doesn’t help the player playing the Thief, the pirate ship hits the coppers and powers up. The chance of Pirate Ship whiffing completely in 4p is very slim.

        • Geronimoo says:

          Bishop into the Golden Deck (which consists of 5 cards: Bishop, 2 Silver, Gold, Province). You don’t even need Chapel, because the Pirate Ships help you clean out your Coppers. A single Bishop will crush 3 Pirate players (winning about 90% of the games)

        • WanderingWinder says:

          It CAN be board-defining. I’m just saying it isn’t ALWAYS so, or often most of the time. Sure, it’s much better in 4p. But on the other hand, you run out of targets pretty fast…. If there’s almost any other source of stuff going on… even if there isn’t, if there’s any other trashing to get rid of the estates, you get a very trim deck and buy up some money, which is now immune because your whole hand is in your deck. And then once your deck expands beyond that stage, they’re not going to attack so much, because everybody else’s money is gone too.
          For an example of a 4p game goes well for me ignoring PS:

  15. Soupaman91 says:

    I’d agree that Scout is heavily dependent on the presence of Nobles/Harem/Great Hall but it can work as an engine builder. I had one game where my deck consisted of Mountebank/Nobles/Scout and a Chapel to clear out the gruff. I used Scout to sweep up the Nobles, and from there picking up and playing 3 Mountebanks in a turn was easy. My opponent nabbed the first Provinces sure, but by the end his deck was full of garbage getting 2-3 coppers/curses a turn. Even when I started buying Provinces, Scouts help prevent my deck from getting mucked up. Very situational, but it can be powerful.

  16. Anonymous says:

    A couple of comments on Pirate Ship. I know it’s luck, but I have lost multiple golds/platinums in one game due to it. Also, I have seen it get worth 11 money and just buy colonies. So while it’s rare, it can be useful.

    • Anonymous says:

      Pirate Ship will generally beat a straightforward Big Money strat, true.

      But there could be something on the board that beats it. Engines are easier if you opponent is trashing all your coppers for you, after all.

  17. Alex Zorach says:

    I’m not really a top-tier player so I don’t know how my reasoning will hold up in the most highly skilled play. But I’ve been thinking about the inclusion of Talisman here.

    I agree that Talisman is often slow and useless, and I’ve sometimes bought it only to realize that too late, but I’ve also had games I lost when I thought I could outpace some combo (like Talisman+Bridge to double up on $5 cards) without using Talisman and ended up behind because of it. I think Talisman is a card whose relative value depends hugely on what cheap cards are on the board.

    Caravan and Fishing Village come to mind. Mining Village is also good because it’s a cantrip and the Talisman gives you the option of an additional +2, making up for the lost time and value. I also think the presence of cantrips like Pawn make the card retain its usefulness after a higher-value pile is emptied. In games where people race to empty low-cost piles (which sometimes happens if there is only a single source of +Buy, +Actions, or +Cards), Talisman almost seems a necessary buy. What about Village/Smithy for drawing your deck? Would Talisman get you to a full draw faster? Say you opened Village/Talisman, and then used the Talisman to buy two Smithy’s? Is this plausible? Maybe it’s too risky. I’ve never tried this so I don’t know.

    I also think Talisman is a more attractive buy if the $5 cards on the board aren’t great, because the lost tempo from not getting to $5 as fast can be offset by whatever you gained from the Talisman strategy.

    It’s a huge liability if you draw it when you want to purchase some card (like a terminal action when you don’t have +Actions) that you only really want one of. So in this respect, other cards like Workshop are superior. But often, Talisman appears on the board without workshop or anything similar.

    • theory says:

      I think your reasoning is quite sound. But it highlights the dangers of the card — it kind of traps you at $3/$4, rather than $5. Which is sometimes good, but not super often.

  18. Just came across this and thought I would add that I won the first game of Dominion I ever played with repeated Throne Room + Pirate Ship combos. I fairly quickly got up to 8 coins and then was able to buy up all the provinces incredibly quickly.

  19. Admin says:

    Scout is by far the worst. Most of the time I’d rather have cellar because I can deal with curse and terminal action cards (as well as coppers) and cellar is a weak $2. I’d just about always take a cellar, warehouse, a crossroads, vagrant, apothecary, navigator and cartographer over scout.

    Thief is dangerous in a 4p game midway as stealing that first gold can swing the game and it only gets better with prosperity cards in play.

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