This article was written by Polk5440 with editing help from the Dominion Strategy blog team. The article is based on an article originally posted to the forums in September 2017.
“Over you gold shall have no dominion.”
– Lady Galadriel, The Fellowship of the Ring
Gold increases your buying power, does not cost an action to play, and is available in every kingdom. What a great card! You can’t draw it dead with Smithy! It’s so shiny! A no-brainer buy, right? No. Do not succumb to dragon sickness.
“Just because you can afford it, doesn’t mean you should buy it.” This aphorism — who knew Suze Orman gave such great Dominion advice? — is especially true with Gold. In fact, buying Gold whenever you can afford it or even just when you can first afford it is often an unmitigated disaster.
Why does the allure of glittery Gold spell your eventual defeat?
- Gold is a “stop card”, preventing drawing or cycling through your deck.
Ask yourself at the beginning of the game: “What’s my ideal deck going to look like? What cards do I need lots of? What’s my plan?” With each passing expansion, a deck that buys mostly Treasure with only a couple of Action cards is increasingly a losing proposition to Action-heavy decks thinned of cards that stop you from drawing or cycling through your deck. Estates, Coppers, Shelters, sure, they’re junk, and too many terminal Actions can obviously stop up your deck, but even though Gold produces $3, it, too, is a “stop card” that slows you down.
- Gold isn’t the strongest card you can afford.
Costs in Dominion are a funny thing. Just because something is expensive does not mean it’s better than all of those other cheaper things. There is usually something better to buy to advance your plan and improve your deck than Gold, and it may not cost $5 or $6 either. Do you need a village for more actions? Or maybe desperately need an extra buy? Sure, it may feel pretty terrible to buy a $6 Herbalist at first, but if you need the card, get the card! And it makes sense, right? What’s the point of having lots and lots of cool Kingdom cards and lots and lots of expansions from which to pull those cool cards if buying Gold on $6 is always the right call? Boring! Dominion expansions would be such a rip off.
- Gold is not the best payload in the kingdom.
“Payload” is what you actually use to end the game with a win. Buying gold should be thought of as the payload of last resort, not the default one. There are lots of great cards in Dominion and lots of interesting decks you can build that do not rely on Gold as the payload to buy Provinces outright. For example, Gold isn’t always the best Treasure available for maximizing your coin available. Or maybe you are building a very Action heavy deck that gets more than enough coin and buy from Action cards, instead. Maybe you are able to gain lots of cards and empty piles early. If your answers to “What’s my ideal deck going to look like? What cards do I need lots of?” and “What’s my plan?” do not involve lots of Gold, then don’t buy it! Don’t be afraid to buy something more useful, instead.
I’ll admit, there are some good uses for Gold.
- Gold can be engine fuel and a trash for benefit target.
Gold in a engine? Yes! A timely Gold or two can directly fuel a draw engine that relies on Encampment or Storyteller. It’s also the necessary companion card for Legionary’s attack, which is great for slowing down your opponent while you continue to build. Finally, Apprentice loves the high cost of Gold, drawing you as many as six cards.
In fact, Gold is often a great target for many types of trash for benefit. It’s exactly $2 away from Province which is very convenient for cards like Remodel and Governor, and the $6 cost is great for VP from Bishop and Ritual, boost of coin from Salvager, or gaining expensive engine components or late Duchies from Stonemason.
- Gold is sometimes the only payload option you’ve got.
So even though I just knocked the idea, sometimes Gold is the best payload for implementing your plan (you haven’t forgotten your plan, right?), either through generating lots of coin, then buying Provinces or through trash for benefit. (Hey, sometimes it happens!)
However, even if Gold is your designated payload, resist the urge to add Gold to your deck sooner than you need it. Build your deck first, then add Gold as payload as late as possible. You need to first ensure that you have enough draw in your deck to handle the additional stop cards (i.e. The Golds). When you add the Gold before you’re able to reliably draw it, it will simply get in the way.
- Gold can be a good card in a money-ish deck.
Sometimes you just can’t build a deck that draws a huge hand every turn or cycles efficiently through the junk. In fact, the fewer cards you play on your turn, the better Gold tends to be. For example, in a Legionary game with no way to increase handsize, gaining multiple Golds is almost certainly going to be essential to victory. On the other hand, a deck with Embassy and Treasures can get by fine with 0-2 Golds.
- Gold provides economy.
Sometimes you just need the money to act as a reliable springboard to more expensive engine pieces. I get it. Just don’t get greedy. Ask yourself “Do I really need a/another Gold now?” If there is a critical Attack, trasher, engine component, or other card you need first to execute your plan, and you can afford it, get it. Do not be afraid to buy a cheaper card that you need, and look for other ways to integrate the necessary Gold gaining, instead.
Also, even if you have to rely on Treasure to get the necessary economy for your deck, ask yourself whether you really need Gold, specifically. You already got to $6, didn’t you? Was it a perfect shuffle to get there? Or is your deck already capable of what you need? In many kingdoms, due to it’s convenient price point and the many possible gainers, Silver may be the only Treasure you need.
- Free Gold is better, but not always good.
When using Gold as engine fuel, payload, economy, or even in a money-ish deck, the last thing you want to do is waste a precious buy and $6 on such an expensive lump of coal. Luckily, Gold is often easier to gain than to buy. The gaining is built-in on cards like Governor, and interactions like Apprentice-Market Square and combos like Hermit/Madman-Market Square rely on Gold gaining to work. Lots of cards like Tunnel, Soothsayer, Bandit, Courtier, Bag of Gold, and events like Windfall, can give you the necessary golden fodder easily, as well.
However, do not get bogged down with too much Gold. It’s tempting to overuse the “gain Gold” option. Every Gold you add to your deck is a stop card, even if it’s free. Too much Gold and you’re just Cursing yourself to the delight of your opponents.