Tactician highlights the general Dominion principle that one good thing is usually better than two mediocre things. There are two very different ways to play Tactician: Single Tactician, which is how you’d normally think of the card, and Double Tactician, a more advanced technique that sacrifices the ability to play Treasure in exchange for a ten-card hand every turn.
Tactician is an easy solution to two big Dominion problems:
- Putting two pieces of a combo together. Your Tournament doesn’t always find Province, and your King’s Court doesn’t always meet a good Action to play it with. Tactician doesn’t technically “solve” this problem, but it sure makes it a lot easier to link up combo pieces. Use Tactician to backdoor into a Treasure Map activation, or play multiple Barons a turn, or connect your Fool’s Golds: all things that are much easier to do when you have 10 cards to work with instead of just 5.
- Exploiting cards whose power increases proportionally with handsize. Coppersmith isn’t going to get many Coppers to work with in a 5-card hand, but fares much better in a 10-card hand. Forge gets to trash a ton of cards at once, instead of one or two at a time. Crossroads can draw a lot more cards even if your deck doesn’t have that many green cards in it. Bank grows tremendously in power (and gets the +Buy it so desperately needs). Vault/Secret Chamber have more to discard. Cellar and Warehouse get a lot better when you have more choice.
These two considerations usually mean that the turn skipped by Tactician is worth it. As a bonus, Tactician is a nice counter to most attacks. Ghost Ship and Militia are mostly nullified; Witch is still a must-buy, but her Curses are a lot easier to deal with when you’re working with 10 cards instead of 5.
Generally speaking, you won’t want more than one Tactician in your deck (perhaps a second one if your deck is very large). You don’t usually want to play a Tactician on your Tactician turn, because then you’re really going for Double Tactician (see below). Occasionally, you see some “mega-turn” decks that repeatedly play Tactician until they can finally draw what they need: building for Throne Room x4 / Bridge x4 is a good example.
Tactician is worst when you have very strong trashing and/or deck draw. If you can draw your whole deck, or almost all of it, every turn already, then there’s no point to skipping a turn to have a not-that-much-better second turn. Likewise, any card that depends on having something in your discard or deck does not fare well when your whole deck is in your hand: Philosopher’s Stone loses $1 automatically, and Loan, Venture, Golem, and Adventurer aren’t benefited by a large hand (and in fact are usually hurt). (A side note on Golem: although it’s possible to use it to get multiple Tacticians in play, for up to +50 Cards/+10 Actions/+10 Buys the next turn, in practice Golem simply does not work with Tactician.)
Playing a Tactician on your Tactician turn will ensure that you draw another ten cards next turn, but it means that you’re discarding all of your Treasure cards during the Action phase, before you can play them for money.*
* Black Market/Tactician, of course, being the giant, gaping loophole exception to this statement. It technically counts as a Double Tactician engine, but is sufficiently different from most Double Tactician engines that I’ll just mention it here and move on.
In your average deck, not being able to play Treasures is kind of a big deal. But double-Tac, almost by definition, gets around this by earning money from Actions rather than Treasure. The goal is to play a bunch of Actions for a lot of money, Tactician away the rest of your hand, buy a Province/Colony, and hope to be able to repeat this every turn for the rest of the game.
Naturally, what kinds of Actions you can play is limited by the number of Actions you can play. Tactician gives you an extra Action, but you still need an Action in the end to play the second Tactician. So you have three options:
- Get tons of cantrip money, via Peddler, Market, Bazaar, etc. Conspirator needs a little help along the way but can be a cheap pseudo-Grand Market.
- Get tons of terminal money but have enough Actions to play them all. This is most easily done with Fishing Village, but can also be replicated with other Villages or King’s Court. (Note that Bazaar qualifies for both this and cantrip money.) Merchant Ship is one of the best sources of terminal money since it persists to next turn. Baron is quite nice, since it gives you +$4 per Action.
- Get all the money you need from a single Action, via Vault or Secret Chamber (or Black Market/Tactician, as mentioned above). Secret Chamber needs a little help: in a 10-card hand, the Secret Chamber has 9 cards to discard, but has to save at least two of them (the Tactician, and at least one card for the Tactician to discard), meaning it can only generate $7 at most. Vault doesn’t need any help in a Province game, since it’ll draw up to 11 cards and be able to discard 9 of them for money. Both will require some assistance in a Colony game.
Some things to keep in mind as you build this engine:
- It is absolutely critical for this engine to keep drawing that second Tactician. Without the consistent Tactician every turn, you can’t find all your Actions or that other Tactician, and it’ll cost you multiple turns for you to start the chain again. And as you start to green, the chance that you miss that second Tactician grows.
- So a sifter like Warehouse or Cellar is a fantastic addition to the engine, and Scheme just eliminates the problem altogether. Otherwise, you need to be mindful that you’re building in such a way that can handle adding green cards to the deck (Crossroads is a great example, as is using Haggler to buy Province + engine part).
- Like all engines, this takes a while to set up, and if you aren’t efficient, you might get outraced (especially since your opponent has access to Tactician). This game is a good example of how building the double-Tac engine too slowly means I get outraced to the Provinces.
- It’s a waste to spend extra turns building up your money to a level you don’t need. Ideally you will hit $8 or $11 exactly each turn; of course, more money is nice, but not if it costs you a turn in setting it up!
- Adding an attack or cards that give VP is almost a given, because you’ll able to play them every single turn. Goons, of course, will do both and give you +$2.
- Some trashing often benefits this engine: it helps you set the engine up faster, and the key advantage of this deck is long-term consistency, one of the big weaknesses of a Chapel-thinned deck.
- Outpost gives you even more opportunities: depending on the set, you might be able to have your Tactician trigger on your Outpost turn instead of your Tactician turn (thus allowing you to double-Tac without having to sacrifice your Treasures), or even go for the rare triple-Tac (where you get a Tactician benefit on your Outpost turns too).
- No matter what, don’t forget: always leave at least one card for the Tactician to discard! It is always quite embarrassing to play Tactician with an empty hand and realize too late that there is no benefit to doing so…
As with most engines, double-Tac can be beaten in very fast sets (e.g., Governor, which can seriously slow you down by force-feeding you Silvers) and sets with Cursers, which will clog up your deck too much to reliably trigger the double-Tac.
Some sample Double Tactician games:
- barely beating single Tactician
- Conspirator/Grand Market focused
- using Spice Merchant and Vault
- an archetypal Black Market/Tactician example, with Crossroads support
- All cards that benefit from big hands: Warehouse, Bank, Crossroads, Forge, Coppersmith, Vault, etc.
- All cards that depend on hitting some other card: King’s Court, Fool’s Gold, Baron, Tournament, Treasure Map, etc.
- Mega-turn decks
- Black Market
- Double-Tactician requires Actions that produce +Coin and benefits from +VP cards
- Opponents’ handsize attacks
- Decks where you can easily draw the whole deck without Tactician’s help
- Diggers, or cards that depend on your deck/discard: Venture, Golem, Adventurer, Philosopher’s Stone
- Possession (requires you to keep track of where your opponent’s Possession(s) are, and when it is “safe” to Tactician)
- Double-Tactician conflicts with Cursers
Would it be true to say that Tactician also ‘conflicts with’ Chapel? Either a 10-card hand OR trashing all the starting cards works for getting the card combos you want in hand, but both is overkill.
In a way, yes. But double-Tac decks do benefit from some thinning down.
Great article, thanks! Can anyone link to some interesting and informative games where a “Double Tactician” strategy paid off? I’d like to see good examples of ways to set this up.
Done. There are some sprinkled throughout the article as well as at the end.
Thanks! Very useful.
Here’s a video of me playing double tactician if you care to sit though it.
That video is extremely informative, thank you!
Thanks again for another great article! My wife and I were just playing IRL the other night with Tactician in the deck. I knew that I had read about a double Tactician deck, but I was having trouble making it work because we didnt have any cards that gave double actions, and very little money from the action cards. Now I know what to look for next time Tactician comes up.
By the way, I hope that you will continue your updated card rankings for the $5 and $6 cards. I am interested in seeing what cards from Cornucopia and Hinterlands make your list, or if you have any other changes like you did with Masquerade from the earlier expansions.
Thanks, as always, for the detailed analysis. The sample games were especially fun to read – tactician strategies are super satisfying when they work.
One minor complaint: in the game you linked to demonstrate a set where single tactician beats double, your opponent does not actually buy a tactician.
Would be fun to run some sims comparing single vs double on some sets w/ middling +money cantrips and terminal +moneys. Maybe I’ll find time this weekend…
Golem/tac is generally not good, but with some discarding it can work quite well. For instance, let’s say I have a set of oasis/mandarin/tac. I have a tac, two mandarins, two oases, and two golems in a 10 card hand. I play the oases and discard the mandarins, I play a golem, it hits two mandarins. I put back the tac and something random. Now I play the other golem and hit the tac (giving me a nice double tac setup) and start with a clean shuffle.
Likewise, playing library/tac/golem (or watchtower/jack), can work very well with discarding. If you can clear all other actions out of your deck, you can control exactly what you will hit. You can either discard +1 actions (including a lot of discarding cards) to get psuedo-village effects or you can drop a tac and a limited draw card to get a 7 (6 or 5) card hand and still play with one action.
The big reason not to go golem when you have discarding cards is largely the opportunity cost. Dipping into potions slows down your game and you will not recover if the game is short or if there isn’t another good reason to go potion. The first is most often not the case in colony games; the latter include familiar, university, and in a pinch transmute (i.e. it’s the only trasher and you can do something remodel a an estate into a potion).
I think it’s worth mentioning that the Secret Chamber and Vault combos are much more resilient to greening than other Double-Tactician setups. You still need to worry about not drawing the second Tactician, but your ability to hit 8 doesn’t diminish. As long as you get the Tactician and the Vault, 8 cards in your hand are getting discarded anyways, and they could be platinums or curses for all it matters.
An early Tactician can be a safe way of bootstrapping to a gold. With a 2/5 opening split, the turn with Tactician is guaranteed to land 6 without opponent interference, and even stands up well to most attacks. This probably matters more on weak boards, but having that first gold early can be critical for snowballing. Similarly, opening Tactician/Secret Chamber will nearly always get you a Platinum.
How on earth can you mention “cards that benefit from big hands” and leave out Bank?
Added. There’s a lot of cards that benefit from big hands, but you are right, Bank definitely deserves a mention.
I also like Minion a lot with double tactictian.
I can either use the 2$ or I can send it fishing for that second tactition in case I missed it.
IS that really faster than pure Minion?
One opponent set up a fine double tactician/triple Moneylender engine, using +buys for the resupply of copper. I never thought this could work and realized too late what I was up against.
In another game, I managed to play Double Tactician without gaining action card $ at all. This, however, required the presence of Border Village, Upgrade, and Remodel.
In yet another game, I learned that Horse Traders are not quite the right $ outlet for a double Tactician engine. Even 10 cards can run out fast, especially since you need one remaining card to trigger the Tactician’s effect.
Nice article! With Secret Chamber, it helps to have a drawing village and a $2 generating action of some sort. Then you can still get to 8$ and have a card left to discard. Another option is to have 2 Lighthouses and play one each turn. With the duration effect, as long as the engine keeps running, you generate $8.
You mentioned Scheme as a way to make sure double-Tactician decks always find the second Tactician, but Tactician-Scheme is an excellent combo for dealing with decks that are bogged down with junk.
See Game 7 of my dominionstrategy.com tournament match against ARTjoMS: http://councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20111218-084853-492d389f.html. We both go for Witches early, but I go for Philosopher’s Stone/Tactician/Monument to deal with the bloat, while she gets Scheme/Tactician. As a result, from the time Curses run out (turn 11), she plays Tactician 7 times to my 2, and cruises to an easy victory.
I seem to play double tactician far too much, but I’ll skip that and say a few things about single tacticians.
– Actions that you can play for benefit before discarding a hand with tactician, such as university or upgrade, are good partners. They allow you take benefit from the tactician discard turn. The tactician helps them by cycling 15 cards in two turns so you use the good cards more often.
– Many close games are lost with one player discarding the hand for a tactician and an opponent ending the game before the 10 card hand arrives. This highlights the genuine tactician problem of delayed benefit. Getting everything bigger-later isn’t necessarily better in Dominion since you generally want to improve your deck and draw it again as soon as possible.
“Getting everything bigger-later isn’t necessarily better in Dominion since you generally want to improve your deck and draw it again as soon as possible.”
But it’s always seemed to me that Tactician cycles your deck so fast you ARE getting your new cards about as quickly as you otherwise would. Don’t you agree? (Admittedly it triggers a lot of reshuffles).
The endgame scenario you mentioned is a different beast, but it seems like these last-minute endgame problems are too unpredictable to plan your strategy around. I guess if you’re really on the fence between single-Tac and another strategy (especially one that’s super-reliable in the endgame like Jack of All Trades) I can see where this might tip the scales? Can you think of any other situations where you’d be thinking this far ahead when you bought the Tactician?
I would like to suggest that it is not always the case that you need only 1 tactician even if you are playing for a single-tac strategy. I am not sure, but at the very least it is not obvious. Drawing the second tactician in your tactician turn just cost you a card, but it can be a game rescuer when your tactician skips a shuffle and got buried at the end of the shuffle again.
I’ve been wondering about this too. Just to play devil’s advocate:
* Drawing the second tactician in your Tactician turn doesn’t cost you just “a card”: it could have been a powerful $5 (or higher) instead. The opportunity cost could be huge here.
* What are the odds you’ll have the problem, and what are the odds you’ll be saved? In a 20-card deck, the odds are something like 50% that you’ll get your other Tactician on your Tactician turn, to say nothing of the 20% chance that the Tacticians will come up in the same hand (in which case it probably doesn’t matter whether that card is a Tactician or something else). My accounting is a little sloppy here but you get the idea. And note that if the second Tactician comes up in your Tactician turn then it’s very likely they BOTH miss the reshuffle together.
Will your deck be much bigger than that, for most of the game? Maybe, maybe not. Remember that Tactician plays fairly nicely with even weak trashers, and sometimes the point of Tactician is that you’d rather buy a few expensive cards rather than buy cheaper cards on every turn. (Of course the article points out that unusually big decks might need a second Tactician, so maybe this is just a question of how big is “unusual”.)
And what if Tactician DOES miss the reshuffle? Half the time it isn’t that bad since it already drew so many cards that the next reshuffle is near. Missing a couple of late turns might not be as bad as wasting an early turn on that second Tactician.
Finally, something else to consider (credit to WanderingWinder for this viewpoint). If your Tactician misses every reshuffle and you only get to play it twice in the game, maybe you’re better off just blaming bad luck. I mean, X% of the time you’re just going to lose unavoidably to bad shuffle luck even with a good strategy (and there is a lot of luck in Tactician games, I think.) You can try to reduce X by making a weaker but more reliable deck, but it’s not always a good idea, and this might be one of those cases.
horn of plenty is another that works real well with big hand size.
I just played a game against the Androminion AI’s, (not that they’re any good or anything), but I found something interesting.
Tactician/Fishing Village/Haven. Fishing Village allows you to get moneys and such, and Haven guarantees your tactician every OTHER turn (as you can draw into it with some other engine). You basically just spam the most expensive card you can buy, up to about 2 or 3 tacs, then you pretty much get a province every other turn.
I just won a game using Tactician + Tunnel as a combo. The tunnels allow you to gain one, two, even more golds in a turn where you are discarding the hand, often before your deck would be able to get to $6. Relatively early in the game, there was even once where I discarded my 10 card hand (full of tunnels, of course) rather than play the tactician hand.
I opened with workshop+quarry, which enabled me to get lots of tunnels very fast, and buy the tactician cheap and fast (as well as get a second tactician easily). There were a couple turns on which I drew a dead hand but it was more than made up for by the times I was gaining multiple golds per turn, or drawing a double hand full of golds with +Buy. Great halls were on the board which also made workshop more attractive as once the tunnels were out, I could load up on them.
Also, although it seemed like the deck was slowed down by the large portion of green in it, the tunnels added so much VP that it didn’t seem to matter. I’d be curious how well this strategy would hold up if I ever tried it again. I don’t think I’d use it if there were better ways to discard the tunnels on the board (warehouse, cellar), but it worked very well on the board I played.