This post is an expansion of a post from the Dominion Strategy Forums by aku_chi, with editing help from the Dominion Strategy Blog staff.
Counting House was once considered the weakest $5 card – and for good reason. It requires some very specific support to be powerful. Counting House works best when you can consistently draw it with a discard pile full of Copper. Fortunately, some of the most recent Dominion expansions have provided excellent support for Counting House. Travelling Fair from Adventures has a very strong combo with Counting House, as discussed in a recent article from this blog.
Night Watchman from Nocturne presents another strong combo with Counting House, which works a little differently. This combo works by having two pairs of Counting House and Night Watchman and alternately playing these pairs of cards while buying one Province each turn. Once the combo gets started: your deck will be empty, you’ll play your Counting House and draw to 8 Copper, you’ll buy a Province, then you’ll play Night Watchman to set up a 5-card deck including your other copy of Counting House and Night Watchman – which you draw for your next turn. Rinse and repeat.
This combo can usually be set up starting on turn 7, after which you can reliably buy one Province per turn until the Province pile is empty (turn 14 if your opponent doesn’t help you). This is usually faster than competing strategies.
Playing the Comb0
There are four conditions you need to meet to start the combo:
- Have the following deck contents: Counting House x2, Night Watchman x2, Copper x8, Estates (or Shelters) x3, one other card. The other card could be a ninth Copper, a Silver, an Heirloom, or (if you’re lucky) a Duchy.
- Have the following hand: Counting House x1, Night Watchman x1, three other cards.
- Have the following deck and discard pile: Counting House x1, Night Watchman x1, Coppers, and at least two non-Copper cards.
- Be able to generate $8: This is usually accomplished by having all Coppers in your hand or discard pile.
From this point on, you can buy Province, play Night Watchman, discard to a 5-card deck that includes your other Counting House and Night Watchman, and do the same thing over again. If your opponent doesn’t affect your deck, this combo is 100% reliable through 8 Provinces. For the 8th Province, you can discard your Night Watchman to find your Counting House.
Building to the Combo
You need to gain six cards before you can start the combo: Counting House x2, Night Watchman x2, Copper, and one additional card. In most circumstances, you should aim to start the combo on turn 7 after buying one of these cards each turn. Rarely, there will be a way to accelerate this process and start the combo on turn 6. Conversely, sometimes you’ll get unlucky and your Counting Houses or Night Watchmen will stick together, or maybe you’ll have a difficult time affording your second Counting House, but these usually only set you back one turn.
The order in which you buy these six cards ought to depend on your opening split:
- 4/3: This the best case. Buy Copper turn 1, then Night Watchman turn 2, to set up $5 on turn 3, which you should use to buy your first Counting House.
- 3/4: Buy Silver on turn 1, then Night Watchman on turn 2 to set up $5 on turn 3, which you should use to buy your first Counting House. You still need to buy a Copper at some point, but there’s no rush.
- 5/2 or 2/5: Open with Counting House and Copper. Often, you can buy a Night Watchman on turn 3 and guarantee your second Counting House purchase on turn 4.
Once you have one Counting House and one Night Watchman, you should have opportunities to set up a $5 turn to buy your second Counting House. You can also sometimes use your second Night Watchman purchase to set up a good Counting House turn to buy a second Counting House. Once you have two Counting Houses and two Night Watchman, you will want to try to get them into alternating pairs.
If all goes well, you might have alternating pairs of Counting House and Night Watchman set up by turn 6. However, you will not be ready to buy Province yet (unless you got extra gains, somehow). You need 8 Coppers for the combo to be reliable, so make sure you buy an eighth Copper before buying Provinces. Even if you have the eight Copper by turn 6, you won’t have enough non-Copper cards to take a Province while setting up your next turn: grab fewer Coppers with Counting House and buy a Duchy instead.
There are many cards your opponent can play that will affect this combo. Haunted Woods completely kills your combo by making you unable to play your Night Watchman. Minion discards your Counting House and Night Watchman. Pillage can discard either your Counting House or Night Watchman. Against Enchantress, you can protect yourself by buying a couple dummy actions (ideally cantrips) to protect your Counting House plays.
Because this combo relies on keeping a full discard pile, any card that causes you to draw or reveal additional cards from your deck can trigger a combo-killing shuffle (e.g. Council Room, Bandit). If you know the opponent can only play one of these cards in a turn, it is possible to slow down the combo 1-2 turns and keep 1-2 extra cards in your deck. This will also hurt your reliability, because your Counting House or Night Watchman might be in these 1-2 extra cards.
Most handsize attacks and junking attacks merely decrease your reliability by adding more non-Copper cards to your discard pile. Once you have 9+ non-Copper cards in your discard pile, there is a chance that you cannot guarantee Counting House and Night Watchman in your next hand. Still, you should be reliable through 5-7 Provinces and win unless there is extremely strong alternative VP. Early handsize attacks can make it more difficult to afford Counting Houses. Against junking attacks, buying 1-2 extra Night Watchman can help with reliability.
Practice Makes Perfect
Counting House strategies are generally wacky, and this combo is no exception. If this combo sounds interesting, I recommend practicing it a few times solo so you have a good feel for how to play it if you encounter it in the wild. Happy counting!