“Chapel is the most powerful Dominion card relative to its cost, and I’m unlikely to make another card that powerful (relative to its cost).” –Donald X. Vaccarino
“Oops, I did it again.” –Britney Spears
Fool’s Gold is pretty great. And, like Minions, Hunting Parties, and sex, the more of it you have, the better it gets. Play one FG in a turn, and it’s a Copper. Play two, and each one is a Silver-and-a-half. Play three, and each one is a Gold. Play four or more, and they’re better than Gold. Pretty snazzy for a $2 card.
It should follow from the above that you want to buy as many copies of Fool’s Gold as possible. And, indeed, you can do worse than buying nothing else: Big Money Ultimate on Geronimoo’s simulator loses to an equivalent strategy that just buys Fool’s Gold instead of Gold and Silver 25%-67%. The Fool’s Gold strategy averages 4 Provinces in 15.5 turns. But sometimes (a lot of the time), you can do even better.
What does Fool’s Gold like?
There are three things that Fool’s Gold loves almost as much as other Fool’s Gold, and sometimes it’s worth dipping out of Fool’s Gold to pick up one or more of them. Those three things are:
- Trashing: The less cards you have in your deck that aren’t Fool’s Gold, the higher your chance of drawing lots of Fool’s Gold at once. Thus, Fool’s Gold loves trashers (but only some…more on this later).
- Card Drawing: The more cards you have in your hand, the more of them are likely to be Fool’s Gold. Thus, Fool’s Gold loves drawing cards.
- +Buy (or gain): The only thing better than buying a Fool’s Gold every turn is buying more than one Fool’s Gold every turn. This accelerates your game if you’re going for it and your opponent is ignoring it, and gives you the chance at a favorable split if you end up racing for the Fool’s Golds. And more importantly, with all the money you’re getting from your Fool’s Golds, you don’t want to just settle for a single Province per turn. Thus, Fool’s Gold loves +buy.
Even better than getting just one of those, though, is getting multiple. So, with that in mind, let’s consider some specific cards that go well with Fool’s Gold.
Mint: A special case for a 5/2 split, Mint/Fool’s Gold is currently the 6th best opening, according to the councilroom.com rankings. Mint’s on-buy effect provides excellent trashing, and its on-play effect then goes on to effectively provide +buy, getting you lots of Fool’s Gold fast. It’s probably not worth picking up later unless you get a lucky 5-Copper hand (don’t trash any Fool’s Gold for it).
Wharf: Wharf/Fool’s Gold is one of the best two-card pairs in the game, what with the killer card draw and +Buy.
Council Room: Huge draw and +buy to go with it. Council Room/Fool’s Gold is an excellent opening if you’re lucky enough to get a 5/2 split, but even if you’re not, picking one up with your first $5 hand is worth it. Buying a single Council Room as soon as possible increases Fool’s Gold’s margin over BMU to a whopping 90%-7%, and beats Fool’s Gold head-on 71%-23%. It also beats the optimized Council Room bot 76%-19%.
Margrave: Card drawing, +buy, and an attack to boot. Smells like victory. Like Council Room, Margrave is worth picking up with your first $5 hand even if you don’t get a 5/2 split. One of these babies will let Fool’s Gold beat BMU 92%-5%, and beats straight Fool’s Gold 69%-25%. And on the flip side, keeping your best three cards out of six is not as bad in a Fool’s Gold deck as in most decks.
Salvager: A trasher tailor-made for Fool’s Gold. Get rid of your Estates and Coppers, accelerate your Fool’s Gold purchasing with +$ and +buy, then have the option to rush the end game by trashing Provinces if you get ahead (doubly beneficial to a Fool’s Gold deck, since Fool’s Gold hates greening). Buying a single Salvager on turn 1/2 increases Fool’s Gold’s margin over BMU to 81%-16%, and beats straight Fool’s Gold head-on 60%-37%.
Spice Merchant: In mirror match-ups, ends up being a slightly less good version of Salvager in Fool’s Gold games, but still worth picking up if it’s the best option on the board. If your opponent ignores Fool’s Gold, it’s even better. You can use the +$/+buy option early to pick up extra Fool’s Golds, or the +cards option if you get an unlucky hand like 2xFG, 1xC, Spice Merchant, Province, hoping to draw an extra Fool’s Gold. Picking up a Spice Merchant as an opening increases Fool’s Gold’s margin over BMU to 86%-10%, and beats Fool’s Gold head-on 54%-37%.
Masquerade: Gives a little card drawing, along with light trashing. Masquerade is a good card, and its strengths line right up with what Fool’s Gold likes, so no surprise that they go well together. Masquerade/Fool’s Gold beats BMU 81%-15%, and beats straight Fool’s Gold 57%-38%. It also beats the optimized Masquerade bot 55%-39%.
Bridge: Gives +buy for cheap. The cost reduction also minimizes the chance of unlucky turns where you get your +buy but don’t have enough money in hand to buy two Fool’s Gold (a problem with some of the weaker +buy cards), and gives you a decent shot at double Province or Province/Duchy turns late game (FG/FG/FG/C/Bridge is P/D, FG/FG/FG/FG/Bridge is P/P). Buying an opening Bridge bumps up the margin against BMU to 88%-9%, and beats straight Fool’s Gold 67%-27%. Also beats the optimized Bridge bot 83%-13%.
Envoy: It’s good for BMU, and it’s good for Fool’s Gold. It beats BMU 76%-18%, straight Fool’s Gold 50%-4-%, and the optimized Envoy bot 51%-41%.
Smithy: No surprises here. Beats BMU 78%-18%, Fool’s Gold 55%-36%, and the optimized Smithy bot 53%-38%.
Thief: An interesting case, and one of the few types of games in which the card is actually useful. In a mirror match-up, Thief acts as +buy, letting you pick up extra copies of Fool’s Gold, while killing your opponent’s copies (of course, you still run the risk of getting unlucky and just trashing his Copper for him). With a single Thief as an opener, it beats straight Fool’s Gold 63%-30%, but it’s worse against BMU than straight Fool’s Gold is (though it still wins 64%-29%).
Venture: Stronger than Gold if you have been working the Fool’s Golds into your deck.
Pawn: Cheap non-terminal +Buy, it can often help with an early $4 / 2 buys hand to get two Fool’s Golds.
Sifters: Cards like Warehouse and Cellar help you find your Fool’s Golds easier.
Cards to help you win the Fool’s Gold race:
Nomad Camp: A nice opener.
Remodel: Usually remodeling your Coppers into $2 junk is not worth it, but with Fool’s Gold, it totally is.
Smugglers: Especially good for P2.
What doesn’t Fool’s Gold like?
As good a card as Fool’s Gold is, there’s a number of things that don’t go along with it very well. Some of them are expected, but some are surprising (at least to me). Here are a few of them:
Cursing attacks: Just like having less crap in your deck makes you more likely to draw your Fool’s Golds together, having more crap makes you less likely to do so. Thus, if you’re going to be eating a lot of Curses, you should probably stick to Gold and Silver which at least retain their value in crappy hands, rather than turning into so much Copper. Mountebank is the worst of the lot, of course, since it gives you two cards that aren’t Fool’s Gold every time you get hit. When Cursers are on the board, I’d probably just avoid Fool’s Gold altogether.
Swindler: Ordinarily Swindler turns your good cards into other Action cards: not the ones you wanted, but still decent. Swindler turns your Fool’s Golds into Estates. That’s bad. Real bad.
Fast megaturns: Fool’s Gold strategies can be pretty fast…but not necessarily the fastest thing on the board. If you think your opponent can probably pull off some kind of KC/Bridge monstrosity on turn 12, you should probably try and contest him on those grounds, rather than plodding along with your Fool’s Gold strategy.
Chapel: Despite my assertion above that Fool’s Gold loves trashing, it turns out not to get along with the king of trashers, Chapel. Straight Fool’s Gold beats Chapel/Fool’s Gold 59%-38%. Without any +buy to make up the turn you lose buying Chapel, you’re probably only going to end up with 4 Fool’s Gold in your deck when they run out, and with no copper to back them up, that’s not going to stand up to any greening whatsoever. It may be viable to work Chapel into a Fool’s Gold strategy that also gets some +cards from somewhere, but I suspect that’s going to be too slow and lose the Fool’s Gold race.
Moneylender, Steward: Good as these cards are, they both fall prey to the same problem as Chapel. If you waste a turn buying them, you lose the Fool’s Gold race, and the deck thinning and +$ they provide isn’t enough to make up the difference.
Colonies: With Colonies in play, you need four Fool’s Golds in hand, not three, to get a Colony, and that is way harder. You’re going to need to do a bit more to get that set up. A better approach than pure Fool’s Golds is to use them to leapfrog into Platinums (which are easy to get): as good as Fool’s Golds are, even they are nothing compared to Platinum.
Should I buy Gold and Silver after the Fool’s Gold runs out?
In a word, yes. It’s not going to matter against a player who’s not going Fool’s Gold (by the time they run out, you’re going to be buying Provinces and Duchies anyway), but in a mirror match-up, a player who buys Gold and Silver after the Fool’s Gold runs out beats one who doesn’t 85%-10%. Just do it. But not before it runs out.
When should I trash my Fool’s Gold to top-deck a Gold?
I have no idea. Geronimoo’s simulator doesn’t have a way of controlling the bot’s behavior for this, and I don’t know my way around rspeer’s well enough to answer this question with it. However, there are a couple things I think are probably important when deciding whether or not to trash:
- Can you already buy a Province? If so, don’t trash.
- How did the Fool’s Gold split go? The better it went for you (the more Fool’s Golds you got), the less you should be inclined to trash.
- Do you have more than one Fool’s Gold in hand right now? If so, probably don’t trash.
- Given what you know about what’s left in your deck, are top-decked Golds likely to let you buy a Province next turn? If yes, might be a good idea to trash.
- Is the game far enough from over that a VP card next turn is as good as one this turn, or are you really down to the wire? If the former, you might consider trashing; if the latter, probably best to just buy buy buy.
Should I try and incorporate Fool’s Gold into engines?
This is a tricky question, and in my experience, the answer is generally “no.” It’s easy to see why you would want to: Fool’s Gold rewards big hands with lots of buys, and the best way to get that is a big, fancy engine. The problem is, fancy engines take time to set up, and Fool’s Gold is always a limited resource. So, if you try to get your engine set up first, your opponent has time to buy up all the Fool’s Gold, making your ability to draw your whole deck useless. On the other hand, if you buy up the Fool’s Gold first, you’ve probably spent enough turns on that race that it’s too late to start building an engine; your opponent already has enough Fool’s Golds to be buying Provinces.
There may well be some exceptions to this, but in my experience, Fool’s Gold and engines don’t mix especially well.
What kind of decks feature Fool’s Gold best?
- Decks where you use +buy or gain to get a lot of FGs really fast (which really only works in 2-player, since you need to have 5+ to really get a good enough density).
- Big Money decks with +cards, where you only need maybe 3 of them, and just take advantage of the fact that with large hands you will draw 2 of them +$3 from other sources often enough.
- Decks where you trash down to get a really high FG density even with 5 or fewer FGs.
Keep in mind that in a multiplayer game, the first two work much less well since you are no longer assured of getting 5+ Fool’s Golds.
- Trashing (if it gives +buy)
Doesn’t work with:
- Cursing attacks
- Trashing (if it doesn’t give +buy)
- Fancy engines
- Colony games