Dark Ages: Beggar

This article is written by Schneau, originally posted on the forum.


Dominion: Dark Ages

Beggar is the new Copper hipster. When we were all introduced to Dominion, we thought Coppers were cool. Who would want to trash them? Hipster Chapel, I guess. But, as time went by, we all realized that trashing Coppers was fun, and the hipsters started saying they liked Chapel before it was cool. Now the hipsters are back into Copper, and Beggar is their new retro king.

Before considering how to use it, let’s take a look at what Beggar does. The action part is pretty simple, right? Gain 3 Coppers into your hand. But, it’s more subtle than that. Beggar can be seen as a terminal Gold that comes with the drawback of three more Coppers in your deck. The reaction part of Beggar gains you two Silvers, one on top of your deck. This is also more subtle than it looks, and depends on what Attack card it is reacting to, as we will discuss in a bit.

As an Action
So, when would you want to use Beggar? Didn’t we all learn long ago that Coppers are bad? Well, yes, they are bad in many engines. But, as most things in Dominion, it isn’t as simple as that and it depends on the kingdom. Even in a thin engine, there may be a time and place for Beggar.

The thing to realize about Beggar is that $3 on a terminal Action is really good, especially on a $2 card. With a terminal Gold, it is easy to hit $5, $6, and even $7 on early hands, making it easier to get those important high-cost cards. The only downside is that you now have Copper clogging your deck. So, if you can play it in situations when you don’t mind the extra Copper, it can be fantastic.

Another general use for Beggar is as a late-game buy to keep your money going strong as you start to green. If you can pick up a Beggar with an extra buy when you expect to see it only once or twice more until the end of the game, it can be used as a terminal Gold without worrying about the Coppers hurting your deck too much. In non-trimmed decks, this can make all the difference in hitting $8 more often than your opponent, and in thinned engine decks, it can boost you to $16 for the all-important double Province or $13 for Province + Duchy.

Early Beggars aren’t good in straight Big Money or BM+draw decks – they conflict with drawing terminals, and aren’t good enough on their own since the Coppers slow things down a bit too much. They also aren’t good early in engines, where they put too many Coppers between important engine parts. As mentioned above, Beggar can be worthwhile later in both of these types of decks as a boost to large payoffs. In Curse or Ruins slogs where you aren’t as worried about a few extra Coppers, Beggar can be more effective early, since it can help buy important Attack cards and Provinces and Duchies later. Additionally, Beggar’s reaction provides a benefit when hit by the Attack cards that are slowing down the game.

One situation when extra Coppers don’t hurt much is if you aiming for alternative Victory cards. Gardens are a natural fit, since playing Beggar allows you to gain 4 cards on a turn and all but guarantees enough money for a Gardens (see below for more detailed analysis). Beggar works decently well with other alt-VPs, namely Silk Road and Duke, and possibly Feodum if your opponents are going heavy on the Attacks. These strategies require a heavy density of Beggars, which is probably easiest to achieve if there is a source of cheap +Buy, especially if it is non-terminal such as Hamlet, Worker’s Village, Forager, or Market Square. In these games you will want to load up on 4 or 5 Beggars, and then start hitting the Victory cards. Note that in games without cheap +Buy, these strategies will more likely end up being slogs than rushes.

Specific Card Combos
Some Action cards don’t mind having a pile of Coppers around. Apothecary might be the strongest combo here, where Beggar can be the terminal after an Apothecary chain. The Apothecaries will just sweep up those extra Coppers to easily get to Province or Colony range. Non-terminal +Buy would definitely help here, both for Apothecary+ buys as well as Province+ buys.

Similarly, Counting House can be a good partner in an otherwise mediocre kingdom – you can easily get more than enough Coppers in your deck to get Colonies. Also, since Beggar is a terminal Gold, it is easy to hit early $5 to get the Counting Houses. This should come with the usual caveat that Counting House is not a good card, and should only be attempted if no strong strategies are present.

Bank can also be one of Beggar’s best friends (which is sort of ironic when you think about it). Bank has several properties that make it work well with Beggar. It is a Treasure, so you can play Beggar and Bank on the same turn without a village (unlike Counting House and Coppersmith). Beggars can help hit the high $7 cost early in the game. Plus, each time you play a Beggar and a Bank in the same hand, you are already guaranteed $7, which means you just need a Copper more to hit Province.

Gardens may be Beggars most powerful combo. Unlike just about any other board, it may be optimal to buy a straight Victory card on turn 1 or 2 with the opening Gardens/Beggar. This allows you to get a jump on the Gardens pile to almost guarantee an even split of the Gardens, if not a split in your favor. According to simulations performed by DStu, just buying Gardens / (Estate when Gardens are low) / Beggar / Copper wins against a basic Workshop / Gardens bot 80% of the time. When your opponent is not rushing the Gardens, you should buy Duchies once the Gardens are gone to help 3-pile and get more VP. This wins against a DoubleJack bot 75% of the time.

Even though Coppersmith + Beggar intuitively seems like it would work well, I think most of the time it will end up being more of a nombo than a combo. Coppersmith likes Coppers, but more of the time it prefers you just draw your starting Coppers on the same turn you play Coppersmith, not that you actually gain extra Coppers. Playing village then Beggar then Coppersmith is doable, though unlikely. And once you have played Beggar a few times, the extra Coppers make it difficult to line up your village + draw + Coppersmith for the big hands. If you are playing Beggar a lot, you may be able to expect at least 3 Coppers in hand with your Coppersmith, though you will be unlikely to hit the necessary 4 for a Province.

A few other cards may combo decently depending on the board. Stables will enjoy guaranteed Coppers to discard, though the Copper flood will limit the ability to build an engine. Philosopher’s Stone, like Gardens, likes a thick deck and may be a decent option, especially with other Potion-cost cards present. If you have a Trader in hand, you can Beggar for 3 Silvers, albiet ones that go to your discard pile instead of your hand. Counterfeit, Moneylender, and Spice Trader can all trash Coppers for benefit, though in most cases it won’t be worthwhile to go Beggar if you want to trash down your Coppers.

As mentioned earlier, Beggar can boost you into the expensive card zone early on, with Bank being the star of the show. Additionally, expensive cards like Goons, Hunting Grounds, Forge, and Alter may be willing to sacrifice having 3 extra Coppers to buy them early. On the other hand, cards like Grand Market, King’s Court, Border Village, and Expand conflict with having lots of Coppers around, making an early Beggar not worthwhile to get to them. If you need to hit $5 on your first reshuffle for some important card (Witch and Mountebank come to mind), Beggar all but guarantees their purchase while giving some defense if your opponent is also grabbing attacks.

As a Reaction
You rarely want to buy Beggar solely for its reaction. But, if you were thinking about it anyway for its Action, you may be swayed further by its reactionary ability. Beggar is often happy to be hit by an Attack card. Gaining 2 Silvers is very good, unless you’re going for a Treasureless deck, in which case why would you buy Beggar in the first place? Unlike Moat, and somewhat like Horse Traders, Beggar’s reaction acts differently depending on what attack triggers it, making it a better defense against some Attacks than others.

Junkers: Beggar’s reaction is probably weakest against Cursers and Looters. You still get the Silvers, but no other advantage. On the other hand, Beggar’s action can be good in Curse slogs, so Beggar may still be worthwhile in these games. Beggar pairs well with Ambassador as described above, both for its action and reaction abilities.

Discard Attacks: Beggar is very good against many discard attacks. Against a vanilla discard attack like Militia, Beggar allows you to discard it to gain 2 Silvers, while reducing your hand size so that you have to discard one fewer card. This works great against Militia, Goons, Ghost Ship, and Urchin/Mercenary, and decently against Margrave. Beggar is an excellent counter to Pillage, since it removes itself from your hand, giving you 4 cards which makes you immune to Pillage. Similarly, Beggar allows you to dodge Minions if you wish, or you can choose not to reveal it if you don’t like your hand. Beggar is bad against the targetted discards of Cutpurse and Bureaucrat, which don’t care about handsize.

Deck Inspection Attacks: Though cards like Spy and Scrying Pool will usually discard the topdecked Silver, they are often played frequently and therefore you can expect them to be played when you have Beggar in hand. Beggar is not as good against Rabble, Fortune Teller, or Oracle, which will discard the topdecked Silver. It is pretty decent against Jester, which prefers to hit your really good cards or your really bad cards; Silver is in the middle ground which gives your opponent the least advantage.

Trashing attacks: Beggar somewhat protects against Thief and Noble Brigand, since you’ll likely gain a Silver while giving your opponent a Silver. It is excellent against Saboteur, Rogue, and Knights, since the topdecked Silver protects your better cards. It is also great against Swindler, where you will gain a Silver and another $3 card. The one card you’ll almost never want to reveal Beggar to is Pirate Ship – you will guarantee they’ll hit Treasure.

Works with:

  •  Alt-VP, especially Gardens
  • Apothecary
  • Bank
  • Counting House
  • Hitting high price points early (Bank, Goons, Hunting Grounds, Forge, Alter)
  • Buying late with an extra buy
  • Discarding attacks and some trashing attacks

Conflicts with:

  • Colonies
  • Strong trashing
  • Buying early in engines or BM
  • Grand Market, King’s Court, Border Village, Expand
  • Pirate Ship
  • Cutpurse
  • Venture and Adventurer
  • Poor House
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11 Responses to Dark Ages: Beggar

  1. chris says:

    Beggar pairs well with Ambassador as described above

    I don’t see a section on Ambassador. But heck, it practically writes itself — buy valuable cards with the Beggar, then give the copper to your opponent(s).

    Although I assume it’s normally not worth it to gain copper with one card and trash it with another (spice merchant, moneylender, etc.), if you get it out of your own deck and put it into your opponent’s at the same time, that’s different.

    One card that might help Beggar/Coppersmith is Tactician (which you can open with Beggar, luck permitting). The giant hand helps you draw a Beggar, a Coppersmith, and several other coppers together and it also gives you the +Action necessary to play both at once, and +Buy if that turns out to be a ridiculous amount of money for a double-Province turn.

    Of course you have to play your treasures for this to work, so this isn’t a perpetual Tactician strategy. Swingy, but sometimes that’s what you need.

    P.S. The conflict with Pirate Ship is actually double — you also probably don’t want to *play* the Beggar if opponent(s) are going pirate, because you’ll fill your deck with treasure for them to gain tokens from.

    • DStu says:

      I’m not so sure on this.
      In an engine: You have to play the Coppers, so you can only return them next turn. You have to draw them in hand reliably. If you can do that, you can as well just play the Coppers instead of playing Ambassador to clean Coppers, play Beggar to gain Coppers, play Coppers. Saves you an action and the purchase of the Beggar.
      In BigMoney: Ambassador is not that strong in BigMoney, Copper is not that bad. A terminal $3 of course is great. But I’m not sure if buying an Ambassador is worth it in BigMoney to return that Coppers. An Ambassador-turn where you return Coppers is usually a turn where you don’t buy anything usefull. Having bought the Ambassador, and returning two Coppers has in total an opportunity cost of at least $4 the turn (Silver for Ambassador and the two Coppers).

  2. Michael Waddell says:

    This is very well written. Both informative and fun. Bravo.

  3. WheresMyElephant says:

    Maybe it’s obvious, but remember that any combo that relies on drawing Beggar and another card (like Bank) in the same hand must contend with the enormous amounts of junk that Beggar will throw into your deck, which makes it very difficult to hit that combo. If you want to do this, don’t start playing Beggar until late.

    On which note: I’d hazard that +Buy goes nicely with Beggar. First off +Buy goes well with ANY strong late-game $2 (since you would rather not buy it earlier than necessary, but you’d also rather not spend $6 for it). But also it will help you take advantage of Beggar’s strong buying power, and might help you end the game early before the Copper flood can become an issue.

    • WheresMyElephant says:

      I guess I should follow this up to say Bank might be a poor example of my point, since Bank is reasonably strong in a Copper-heavy deck even without hitting the combo. (It’s typically worth $3 in BM; and perhaps this could even be a rare occasion where you could plan around $4 Banks without hitting a combo or using any particular card draw.)

  4. Anonymous says:

    It seems beggar would be good with spice merchant as well.

    • WheresMyElephant says:

      There’s synergy there but exploiting it requires some thought.

      Is the goal to use Beggar copper to enlarge your hand? A turn like Village/Beggar/SMx3 gives you a seven-card hand. But that seems like an awful lot of work for the equivalent of a couple Caravans. And how do you hit that big combo in the first place? Surely the only way to set up something this elaborate is to already have a good engine in place, which you presumably don’t or you wouldn’t be working this hard to draw a couple measly cards. Maybe there would be some extreme cases where it’s a good idea; say Double Tactician has already drawn most of your cards but you really really want to draw your whole deck, and there’s no other source of +Cards. But I think this is very niche.

      Or, is the goal simply to use Beggar for money and keep Spice Merchants around to clean up their mess? This could theoretically work, but you need at least 3 Spice Merchants to keep up with one Beggar, assuming every card gets played once per shuffle (and actually I think that’s a generous estimate; I would want 4). And, as is well known, the Spice Merchants don’t really add value here; they’re one of the purest forms of Copper trashing. So at this point you have to ask, is this really better for your economy than if you’d just bought Silvers instead of all these cards? Maybe sometimes, but I bet not often.

      The saving grace might be Beggar’s Reaction ability, which slows down the Copper gain so you don’t need so many Spice Merchants to keep up. In other words, you might say “Well I really want Beggar for the Reaction, but if I buy it I’ll probably wind up playing it as an Action once or twice when the Reaction misses. So I better pick up Spice Merchant.” That could work, I bet.

  5. Andy Mitchell says:

    I haven’t had the opportunity to play with Dark Ages yet (c’mon Christmas!), but it seems like Hunting Party would go well with Beggar. In theory, the Beggar would help get the Hunting Party, then the Hunting Party would use the Beggar as a cheap terminal gold. The only issue would be if the on-gain coppers would so dilute the deck that you stop starting with Beggar in hand. Haven’t tried it yet, though, but first thing I thought of.

  6. jeremyhoff says:

    I’m not sure how good a counter to Militia and Goons Beggar is. In the first couple of turns of the game, gaining two Silver (one on top) will turbocharge your deck, which is great. But later on, do you even want a deck full of Silver? As we all know, even a hand of five Silver (or four Silver and a Beggar) is not enough to buy a Province when the Militia comes back. You need Gold, Markets, or other card-drawing to hit $8 from a three-card hand. It might depend on the size of the game: in a two-player game you can hope to have turns without a Militia attack, but in a four-player game your five-card hands are going to be few and far between.

    In a Goons game with engine potential, it seems even worse to gum up your engine with a Beggar and a bunch of Silver.

  7. manthos88 says:

    Beggar-Gardens is great rush. It’s far better than Workshop-Gardens, plus your Gardens will grow VERY powerful with all that Copper (and perhaps a few Silvers) in your Deck. I have tried and it’s awsome.

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