The Five Fundamental Deck Types: Big Money

This is the second in a week-long series by WanderingWinder.  For the introduction and links to the other posts, click here.


What characterizes Big Money?
Basically, it gets the bulk of its income from treasures bigger than copper, so silver, gold, platinum, fool’s gold, venture, etc. It also doesn’t cycle particularly quickly.

Why Big Money?
The type is pretty fast to get to a certain point. This is because it is extremely efficient. You don’t underbuy very significantly or very often, and your deck doesn’t have any ancillary or support cards. Everything is there directly to get you points or to be points.

How can I play Big Money?
Like Engines, there are a number of different types of Big Money deck.

Terminal Draw

Terminal Non-draw
This is money and a few non-drawing terminal cards – more than you would get in a terminal draw Big Money deck, because they’re less likely to collide. The ancillary benefits the terminals provide improves on straight money, generally significantly enough at some point that you should buy a handful extra terminals, risking some collision. Particularly good cards here include Merchant Ship, Swindler, and Monument.

Engine Hybrid
You can start adding villages (typically you want them to be money-producing) to the terminal non-draw decks, and this doesn’t really make them an engine, without draw, but you end up playing a bunch of actions. Also, you will sometimes add a little nonterminal draw to the terminal non-draw money deck, and this can maintain a money feel. Do both, and you are creeping into engine territory. A weak dividing line is how often you will pass up gold for a cheaper component, though this isn’t foolproof.

Treasure Flood
Here, you gain a lot of treasure cards, usually silver via Jack of All Trades, Trader, Bureaucrat et al., but occasionally golds through treasure map, tunnel, or hoard.

General Considerations

  • The Keys to Big Money: Money Density and Opportunity Cost
  • Alternate VP is really bad for Big Money. It helps basically every other kind of deck more, largely by making the game longer.
  • Other than terminal draw (which despises them), these decks readily accept some useful cantrips. Particularly Peddler-types.
  • Other than treasure-flood-types, the biggest problem that these decks tend to run into is stalling – they run out of steam pretty readily. Courtyard, with its ability to smooth out draws, Embassy and Vault, with their ability to discard unneeded green without a problem (note that it’s the same group of cards that can shrug off terminal collision!) and wharf, because it’s wharf (and plays almost like an engine even in BM), are also decently resilient here – unsurprisingly, they also translate to Colony games decently well, which isn’t true of most any other BM variant. The on-gain ability of Mandarin is a big help against stalling as well.
  • Trashing helps money decks, but not by a lot – unless it gives you some other benefit, it’s not worth the opportunity cost
  • Scaling trash-for-benefit CAN do this, particularly if you can use it on Estate early. But the main point is that in the late game, it helps the stalling problem by for instance turning a Province into another Province (Remodel and Salvager can basically do this directly, Apprentice usually can as well).
  • Noble Brigand usually kills you dead
  • Handsize attacks are particularly brutal (especially against Silver-flooders) against Big Money, moreso than other deck types, as generally a money deck needs most of those cards. Ghost Ship is the biggest offender here.


Against Slogs
Against a slog, you are generally going to have sustainability issues. Treasure-floods can do well, but otherwise you are going to need to get enough Provinces fast enough, and then contest their main VP source afterwards. This will meet with varying success based on the particular versions of each deck you’re playing, but in general it’s not so hot. On the plus side, this is one of the reasonably rare situations where all the VP chip cards really help you. Sometimes it’s also possible to plan ahead and just build a very sustainable deck to piledrive or gain a huge lead on Provinces quickly enough. But not often.

Against Rushes
Here, you need to get enough points out of your big VP card before they are able to end the game. This doesn’t happen all that often, but for some of the stronger BM versions, it certainly can. This is actually one of the better matchups for Big Money. If they green too early, they won’t be able to end, and you can amass enough points to overcome their max (typically this is 8 alt VP cards at 3-4 points each, so 4-5 Provinces most often, though with Estates, this will rise to 6 in a lot of cases – plan accordingly!). If you do this, you’re in good shape. Sometimes you can contest the last one or two of their alt-VP cards; if you can do this, it’s really good, as it cuts into their ability to win by hitting a new plateau or switching to slog. However, you need to be REALLY careful, because if you don’t have enough of a lead after doing this, you are helping them pile things out, which is their whole game plan.

Against Combo
Basically you usually have to either pre-empt their combo (a Province a turn is not so hot if you have the lead and they can’t buy Provinces because it will end the game) or end the game before it is set up. Whether you can do this is extremely game specific, but in general, it’s not a great shot. As always, also watch for three pile ending possibilities.

Against Engine
This is actually the best reason to go Big Money in a lot of cases. There are two main ways you can win.

One is to three pile them – know when you can apply pressure on this, and very often, go for it over smaller VP cards like Duchy or especially Estate. This is pretty rare if they know what they’re doing though, as you can’t gain stuff that quickly.

The primary way to win is by getting to 50% of the VP before they can. After this, you might really stall, but it won’t matter (unless they can attack it back out of you!). In practice, slightly below 50% is often fine, because you can cruise for the last point or two in a lot of cases, and sometimes even without 50%, they’re going to be unable to get enough without triggering a three pile ending first.

Of course, the major problems with this approach come when 50% is a LOT of points (or when they can slow you down a lot) – with Colonies, 50% is forever. Similarly with those alt-VP cards. Perhaps most important is the VP chips in Prosperity, which are either infinite or so close that it won’t matter. In these cases (and a few others), you are forced into pile-driving Provinces (or Colonies). If they are playing well, they WILL NOT HELP YOU unless absolutely forced to do so, so prepare to buy ALL of them from the start – the same is largely true when going for 50% of the VP, you want to plan your most efficient path to it from the start.

Against Big Money (mirror)
This is the part of Big Money which has best been studied, and which most of the stuff that’s out there covers. You need to have SOME trump on your opponent – in some cases, this is greater longevity (this is particularly true, for instance, in monument decks). In most cases, it turns into a rush for Provinces. It’s extremely difficult to get four more Duchies than your opponent and THEN get the last Province after that, so if you can get to five Provinces, you’re fairly well golden. The real trick can sometimes come in the race to four. In the mirror, you have to green fast, which means there isn’t a lot of longevity (excepting treasure floods), and not a ton of room to Duchy dance. But if you can get better longevity than your opponent and they can’t blitz out to a 5 Provinces early or anything, then you are good to go Duchy dancing, and try to win that way.

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