Dominion 101 is a series focused on the fundamentals of Dominion. Why Trashing is Good is the first article in this series. You can discuss this article by following this link.
Part 1 – Why Trashing is Good
Original Article by werothegreat
Many games of Dominion have a card that lets you trash, hereafter referred to as a “trasher”. Some trash a single card, others multiple, some do other things in addition to trashing, but all of them trash. The mechanic is simple: trashing removes one or more cards from your deck. The difficulty lies in understanding whether or not it’s a good idea to trash. Players usually understand the benefit of getting rid of Curses, which do nothing and detract from your point total. Of course you want to get rid of those, who wouldn’t? But often when a player is first told that they should trash their starting Estates and Coppers, they balk. Estates are worth points! And Copper is needed to buy cards!
So here we come to an idea of efficiency. Yes, you need points to win the game. Yes, you need coins to buy more cards. But each Estate in your hand is wasted space. That Estate you drew could have been a Silver, or a Village, or a Market. But because you didn’t want to trash it, it’s in your hand, giving you effectively 4 cards to work with instead of 5. Would you rather have a hand of Estate, three Coppers, and Smithy, or a hand of Village, three Coppers, and Smithy? Substituting one card can make a huge difference. By getting rid of your starting Estates, you reduce the opportunities of wasted space in your hands from three to zero.
But what about the points? Well, they really don’t matter until the end of the game. It’s better to have cards that do something now, than cards that do nothing until the game is over (and even then, very little – scoring only a single point each).
Let’s look at a scenario: Billy didn’t want to trash the Estates he started with; that wasted space that keeps popping up in his hand means he keeps getting $4 when he could have gotten $5, or $6 when he could have gotten $8. His sister Lisa, on the other hand, has smartly cleared out her Estates with a trasher, and that extra $1 or $2 in each hand because she drew a Copper or Silver instead of an Estate means she was able to pick up a key Action, or a Province. Now Lisa has three Provinces, and Billy still has just his three starting Estates. That’s 18 points to 3.
For fun, imagine that instead of starting with 3 Estates and 7 Coppers, you start the game with just 7 Coppers. You’re guaranteed to buy a card costing $5 on your first turn, and have a chance to play it on your second turn! That’s insane, isn’t it? That’s how much those starting Estates slow you down.
But what about the Coppers? They actually do something… don’t they? Well, sure, they give you $1. But there are better cards out there, and you’d rather be drawing those than a Copper. Imagine replacing your starting 7 Coppers with 3 Silvers. Or 3 Golds. Not “add to your deck”. “Replace with”. That’s only possible with trashing.
Let’s check in again with Billy and Lisa. Billy has finally figured out he needs to trash his starting Estates, but he’s holding onto his Coppers for dear life. Meanwhile, Lisa has trashed all her starting cards, and has a deck of 5 Markets, 3 Silvers, 2 Golds, 3 Villages, and 2 Smithies, in addition to her trasher. She is essentially guaranteed to draw her deck every turn, which will give her the ability to buy 2 Provinces per turn. Billy has (somehow) managed to get the same cards, in addition to his starting Coppers. Theoretically, this gives him a higher coin output, even potentially letting him buy 3 Provinces in one turn, but in practice, there’s almost no way that will happen. It’s far more likely he’ll have a hand of 3 Coppers, Silver, and Village, and then his Village will draw another Copper, and his turn will be over. While Lisa gets to draw her entire deck every turn and buy multiple Victory cards, Billy is stuck playing maybe one Action per turn.
Now to be fair, there are a few strategies where you don’t want to trash. For instance, when going for a Gardens strategy, you want your deck to be as big and bloated as possible, and aren’t too concerned about making more than $4 per turn. Or maybe you just want to buy Silvers and Golds (and maybe one Action) and run a Big Money deck. But Gardens needs certain other enabling cards to be present to give you more points than Provinces, and a Big Money strategy can never do better than buying one Province per turn. These strategies are usually beaten by an engine, which will be covered in the next Dominion 101 article.
In conclusion: trash early; trash often. Trashing is your friend