There are five fundamental deck types in Dominion. Usually you see people paint it as a dichotomy between “Money” and “Engines”, defined by whether you use Treasures or Actions. Which is fine as a high-level overview, but if you want to dig a little deeper, I believe that there are actually five different kinds of decks in Dominion:
Of course, every deck is different, and every particular kingdom is different. And there aren’t necessarily big bright dividing lines between all five deck types – indeed, I think every type fits fairly nicely ‘between’ two others, and at some point, the two can bleed into each other. But the core concept still holds true: there are generally five big “ideas” from which good decks arise.
This introductory article provides a short introduction to each type, as well as how they fit together on a wheel. More detailed explanations of the different types, as well as what they like and dislike, and how they matchup against each other, will follow in the coming articles.
So let’s take you around the wheel, starting with Big Money, as that’s the first strategy that people tend to find and sometimes think of as a simple solution to the game.
Big Money decks are based on getting their economy from big treasures, typically heading very quickly to their share of Provinces. They are bounded by Slogs and Engines. What this means is that at one end of Big Money (I call it hybrids in the forthcoming article on the archetype), they start getting pretty similar to Engines – you are drawing some, and you are playing a decently high number of actions every turn. On the other end of Big Money, you are getting close to Slogs – the more time you spend buying little green cards, the more important ‘little’ treasures like copper are to your deck, the more like a Slog you are playing, and the quicker you are and more you are going off the bigger treasures, the more you are going BM.
Slogs are slower and generally lead to longer games. Treasures are generally bigger parts of your economy, but rarely do you build up to have any kind of consistency in being able to get something as expensive as a Province. They are between BM (as we’ve seen) and Rushes – this is because like a Rush, they want to get a big point load off of alternate Victory Cards (say, Gardens) a lot of the time. A Rush wants to get to that as soon as can be whereas Slogs want to make them as large as can be, but there is some middle-point where the distinction is not so clear.
Rushes seek to get the lead and end the game via three-pile ending as fast as possible. They are between Slogs and Combos – like many Combos, they are going for a quick run to winning the game off of their particular, highly specialized strategy, not paying tons of attention to what the opponent does other than watching out for three pile endings.
And Combos are based on some specific combination of cards which have specific and unique synergy, setting up to more or less just win the game once they are in place, if this happens quickly enough. They are between Rushes and Engines – like many Engines, a lot of combos look to have a massively massive hand of playing a bunch of cards and buying out everything to end the game, usually in come-from behind, very forceful and stylistic fashion.
Engines themselves are between Combo and Big Money, as we have seen. They look to cycle through their deck very quickly, playing a large portion of their cards with high frequency, using good cards to play roles, but generally in a modular fashion – i.e. there is something that lets you play extra actions, something that draws you cards, something to be a payload, etc.
I should make a quick note that by-and-large, this series is ignorant of Dark Ages, as I haven’t played with those cards very much (this shouldn’t change the typologies themselves, but it could provide good examples). It was also written basically with the 2-player version of the game expressly in mind. Adding in more players definitely changes the dynamics, and having only moderate experience there, I don’t feel like I have a ton of advice to give, though I will say that it tends to improve Big Money strategies across the board, can force you into Slogs more often, and ups the need for flexibility in general, amongst other differences.
Anyway, the first article in the series is on Big Money.