Dark Ages: Marauder

This featured forum article is written by KingZog3.


Dominion: Dark Ages

I saw somewhere someone saying that Marauder is not a good card because “it’s way too slow.” I’d like to show that in fact, Marauder is not too slow to attack, and not too slow in gaining Spoils, and is in fact almost a must buy in many kingdoms without lots of attack cards.

Slow attack? I think not!

Sea Hag is great as it can be bought in the first two turns and can deal Curses on top of other people’s decks, putting the Curses “into play” very fast. While Marauder is the same $4 price as Sea Hag, it only gives Ruins and not on top of people’s decks. Opponents will only get the ruins in their hands on their second reshuffle, which may seem like a long time away, but those ruins hurt more than you think.

This is because Ruins, while still giving marginal benefits, are totally pointless in the early game. Great, I can play Ruined Market for +buy. Yay! (The exception being Abandoned Mine, since it can help players early on…ish). And without fast trashing, there is a good chance that the Ruins will stay around for quite a while. If they don’t play the Ruins, it has the same effect as a Curse in their hand, which leads to the second point of why early Ruins are still very harmful.

At the start of the game, playing those action cards you bought is very important to get Golds or $5 cards or whatever else they do. That leaves little time for playing ruins, even if they give you $1 extra to spend, or and extra buy to pick up…um… two Pearl Divers. Most of the time, Ruins are still just junk, so dishing them out early is a good thing. And Chapelling may get rid of them easily, but then your opponents are still left with Coppers or Estates that they didn’t get to trash because of the Ruins.

That being said, Ruins are still not as bad as Curses, and so attacks like Sea Hag, Militia, etc. do hurt more at the start of the game.  If you don’t buy it fast and start using it fast, it’s possible for your opponent to build a card-drawing engine that manages to keep the Ruins trashed as they come in.  But of course, that is only half of the card . . .

But…Spoils is just a Gold…

Yes, it is just a Gold, but it’s not what Spoils is that matters, it’s how you get it. There are two things which make gaining spoils from Marauder a great thing.

Firstly they help boost your economy, possibly skipping Silvers. Unlike Bandit Camp, you can’t rely on playing Marauder every time it comes up, so turning the Spoils into real Gold is essential. But if you buy Marauder on the first two turns, then play it as soon as it comes into your hand, you’re looking at a Spoils in your second reshuffle. Is that slow? That’s the same as if you had just bought the Gold (Which would require some luck in pulling up 6$ on the third or fourth turn). Sure the Spoils goes away, but just play Marauder again and it’s back. Once it’s replaced with a real Gold, you can trash Marauder. Now you’ve got a Gold and your opponent has a bunch of Ruins. Even if you only manage to give him 3-4, that’s enough to slow him down for a while, especially without a cheap trashing card.

Note also that this is what distinguishes Marauder from Sea Hag.  Both are punishing early game junking attacks, but one boosts your economy as you do it.  In exchange, Marauder doesn’t hurt quite as much as the Hag, but it means that your economy is stronger for it.

Secondly, the “price” of the Spoils is important. Marauder costs $4 and gives you Golds. $4 Gold is a great deal! It costs you an action to keep the Gold, but it gives your opponent Ruins in the process. Just like Bandit Camp is a $5 Gold which gets delayed, Marauder is a $4 Gold that is delayed and costs you an action. It’s just a price you pay for how cheap it is.

The one drawback of the Spoils is that it slows your deck cycling.  You may not think this is a big deal — who doesn’t want to have pseudo-Golds in their deck?! — but it does mean that your Marauder is cycled slightly slower.  You aren’t going to be able to spam it as effectively as, say, a Sea Hag.

Counterfeit — another Dark Ages card — works quite well with Spoils/Marauder:

  • It can trash out your Coppers, letting you play your Marauders more;
  • It doubles your Spoils, and heck, you were going to trash the Spoils anyway.

How to Counter it?

The best way to counter the junk you’ll get is heavy trashing. It’s pretty lame I know, but other than Lighthouse or Moat, that’s the best way to deal with Ruins so early in the game. You may want to keep some if you’re going for a Gardens strategy, but in general you’ll want to trash them. If there’s no trashing, get a Marauder yourself. There is nothing more boring than playing a game with all 10 Ruins while your opponent uses his cheap Gold to buy the more powerful $5 and $6 cards. What I’m trying to say is don’t look at Ruins and think “Oh, they’re not that bad. They give me a little effect when I play them.” Take them seriously, especially when they can be given to you so fast.

Quick Summary

In the end, there are faster, better attack cards that can be bought at the start of the game. However, by buying Marauder you guarantee yourself a Spoils (Gold) in your second reshuffle, eliminating luck factor for getting $6, and you give (mostly) useless cards to your opponents. Sea Hag is better, but Marauder is up there in terms of starting cards. The important thing to lookout for is other Marauders, since then everyone will just have tons of Ruins and Spoils.

Works with

  • Buying it early
  • Counters action based cards like Wandering Minstrel and Golem
  • Fast deck cycling
  • Scheme or Sage (can skip the Spoils with Sage, but plays Marauder more)

Conflicts with

  • Other, better, 4$ attack cards
  • Opponents Scrying Pools
  • Heavy trashing
  • Your Bishops
  • Your Rabbles
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14 Responses to Dark Ages: Marauder

  1. GiB says:

    Great article, though the counter list seems a bit incomplete. There are cases where Ruins will actually *help* your opponent, especially in the late-game, and unlike Sea Hag, not playing your Marauder harms you by not getting your Spoils.
    I can think of Vineyards and maybe Death Cart as such counters.

    Also, Marauder compared to Bandit Camp also costs you a card (not a very problematic issue, since you’ll get your Spoils in a 5-card hand anyway)

    • massenburger says:

      Fairgrounds and Gardens are some other counters as well.

      • stevenlabute says:

        The counters are not complete, true. I should have mentioned cards that rely on differently named cards, but mentioning every single card to counter is not needed. And I did mention Gardens decks won’t want to trash all the Ruins, or any.

      • WheresMyElephant says:

        I’m not so sure about Fairgrounds. Buying up Ruins at the end of the game to round out the number is pretty easy if there’s any +Buy. So maybe playing Marauder on your opponent isn’t giving him too much that he wouldn’t have gotten anyhow.

        I’d guess the biggest danger is that you’re reducing the availability of Ruins that YOU could buy later. You know, if the endgame comes and then you realize the rest of the Ruins pile is all one type, maybe you’re screwed. But I think this is avoidable with a little care. A vanilla Marauder game has up to 23 uniques (17+Spoils+5 Ruins). You can get the full effect with only 2 different Ruins, so lowering the pile a little probably won’t kill you.

        Granted, “vanilla” games are a little more rare nowadays, and if it’s possible to get up to 25 uniques then this analysis will change. Even still, getting all 5 types of Ruins seems a very unreliable plan (in 2P), especially against a savvy opponent. I think I’d rather take my chances with a less junky deck that only gets up to 20 uniques.

        Who’s played Fairgrounds/Marauder? This sounds really fun.

        • WheresMyElephant says:

          Another point: maybe it depends on the cost distribution in the kingdom? If you need to buy a bunch of $6-7 cards for Fairgrounds then maybe giving out Ruins can stop your opponent from getting all the variety he wants. Conversely if you actually do need to waste a lot of turns buying $2-3 cards anyway, then maybe Ruins aren’t so bad. Spoils can also help you win the Fairgrounds split. Fascinating question.

        • Anonymous says:

          Don’t forget the three unique shelters.

    • Yeah, I think on boards when Vineyards is strong, like with Scrying pool, it can be a devastating counter to Marauder, turning it into a benefit. If you manage to get 6 Vineyards into your deck, each play of Marauder is an average gain of +2VP, pretty ruinous. Even without Vineyards, Scrying Pool is a pretty hard counter, from my experience.

  2. stevenlabute says:

    And thanks Theory for posting my article from forum.dominionstrategy 🙂

  3. theory says:

    A whole bunch of stuff at the top got cut off at first. Fixed, now!

  4. Anonymous says:

    How does the Marauder guarantee you a gold? You still have 3 estates in your deck and a marauder when the spoils shows up. That’s 4 cards that contribute nothing to the $3 you still need.

    • WheresMyElephant says:

      It guarantees you a Spoils, which acts like a Gold.

      Not sure exactly what section of the article you’re asking about, but the author often refers to Spoils as “Gold” and I’m pretty confident that’s what has you confused.

      • stevenlabute says:

        I refer to it as “Gold” because it has the same value. If you play Marauder, you get another spoils on your next shuffle, which is the same as if you had a Gold and used it every shuffle.

        As to the 3 Estates and Marauder in your deck, you still have a good chance of hitting that $6, mostly because those probably aren’t the only cards in your deck, and if you didn’t buy any Silvers or money generating action cards (Asside from Marauder which is providing the Spoils) I find that a bit strange. 😛 You could also save the spoils and use 2 of them to get a Gold. The previous post on this site says “Don’t play everything!” which can also apply to Spoils.

  5. I wouldn’t say that Marauder is slow, but I do think it slows the game down a huge amount. Maybe not quite as much as Sea Hag, but it’s definitely up there. But there’s a second slowdown mid-game, because of the transience of spoils. I think it slows the game down more than straight cursers like Witch or Mountebank, because those give draw or coin, and Marauder gives no immediate benefit.

  6. Gnomeitall says:

    So far, my personal favorite Ruins trasher is Procession. At least then you get two uses and a trash all in one turn.

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