Donate + Money

This post was originally written by Seprix and edited in collaboration with the Dominion Strategy blog team.



Donate is hard, precisely because it offers the world. The normal limitations of Dominion are erased, and games become much faster. With all of the engine possibilities, it may escape players to envision Donate as a Money enabler. It is true that Donate is first and foremost an Engine card. It is also true that Donate gets rid of Money’s biggest weakness: time.

Donate Money?

Money strategies can be thought of as a rush of sorts, where you are “betting” that you can get most of the Provinces before the engine can catch up and the game ends. The main problem with Money strategies most of the time is that they are bad at ending the game quickly enough. Donate provides this very speed and consistency to make it happen.

It is important to note that Money strategies are still usually bad. However, with Donate they will appear more often than normal. Because of this, it is absolutely worth investing into how Donate Money plays, both as a resource and as a baseline for knowing how much time you realistically have.

The Vanilla Donate Money Baseline

Usually, the Donate Money race culminates into the first to 5 Provinces, with importance on consistency of economy for sustainable Duchy scoring afterwards. A pure Donate Money strategy ends up with 4-5 Provinces in about 11-12 turns, but struggles to score consistently afterwards. What is this strategy, you may ask? According to xnor’s calculations: (assume any standard opening besides 2/5)

  • Turn 1: Buy Silver
  • Turn 2: Donate down to Silver + 4 Coppers
  • Turn 3: Pay off debt
  • Turn 4: Buy Gold
  • Turn 5: Buy Gold
  • Turn 6: Donate down to Gold, Gold, Silver, paying off debt
  • Turn 7: Buy Province (or a 1/7 chance of missing Province due to last turn’s Donate not hitting $8, in which case buy Gold)
  • Turn 8: Buy Province
  • Turn 9: Buy Province
  • Turn 10+: Buy Province or Gold or Silver forever, pivot to Duchies later

Estimated First Province: Turn 7

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 10-11

Memorize this. This baseline is actually incredibly powerful, and will be as strong as some other Donate Money variants. It is important to note that this baseline is somewhat terrible at scoring Duchies while maintaining Province pressure, and will potentially falter against more consistent Donate Money strategies, despite sometimes being just as fast initially. Thusly, Vanilla Donate Money will struggle to put a nail into the coffin of games versus other Donate Money variants, and while it might sometimes come out with a win, it probably won’t.

Another thing to consider is the time spent before the first Province. Vanilla Donate Money is at a snail’s pace when it comes to first scoring on Turn 7. If a particular Money strategy is already at 2 Provinces on Turn 7, it won’t matter too much if both strategies get to the same end goal of 4 Provinces by Turn 10. The tempo pressure will be on the Vanilla strategy to buy Duchies in order to not risk simply losing, which has already been established to be a terrible weakness for Vanilla Money.

Of course, all of this is contextual. There still is a lot of discovering to do with all of the various types of money plays and lines, but here are some of the more powerful variants, in no particular order.

Amulet + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Amulet
  • Turn 2: Amulet
  • Turn 3: Play Amulet to gain Silver, Donate to 0 Coppers
    • (If you don’t have Amulet in play, Donate anyways but you will be a turn slower.)
  • Turn 4+: Always gain Silver with Amulet unless you have $7 in hand, otherwise Amulet should gain a +$1.
    • (After your first Province, if you miss $8 you may buy Duchies.)

Estimated First Province: Turn 6

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 11 + Duchy

As it turns out, Double Amulet is pretty okay! Double Amulet not only straight up beats Pure Donate in scoring the first Province, but also in getting more points!

Explorer + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Donate to 5 Coppers
  • Turn 2: Pay off remaining debt
  • Turn 3: Buy Explorer
  • Turn 4: Gain Silver, buy Gold
  • Turn 5+: Buy Province, Donate the next turn down, trash everything but Explorer, Province, Golds, and you may keep a single Silver.

Estimated First Province: Turn 5-6

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 9-10

Don’t be afraid to Province incredibly early, then Donate to finish clean-up the next turn. With the constant influx of Gold, one Silver won’t kill to have around ($8 vs $9, no difference). However, More than one Silver risks 2 Silver/1 Gold hands ($7) which are incredibly sad.

For 5/2, you open Explorer and then Donate down to 2 Coppers. On Turn 4, you buy a Silver, Turn 5 is a guaranteed Province, and then you can Donate everything immediately afterwards.

On 2/5, you cry, buy nothing/Explorer, hope to draw Explorer T3 and Donate.

Windfall + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Donate to 5 Coppers
  • Turn 2: Pay off debt
  • Turn 3: Windfall
  • Turn 4: Donate to 3 Golds
  • Turn 5-7: Buy two Provinces and Windfall again in any order, the timing is the same either way.
  • Turn 8+: Buy Provinces or Duchies forever

Estimated First Province: Turn 5-6

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 9

This strategy can hold Duchies well due to the density of Golds, and is highly consistent!

Market Square + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Market Square
  • Turn 2: Market Square
  • Turn 3: Play Market Square, buy Market Square + Donate, keep two Coppers and react all of your Market Squares.
    • (If you don’t find Market Square, Donate anyways but cry that you will be a turn slower.)
  • Turn 4: Buy as many Market Squares as you can while still being able to Donate and having 7 or less Debt. Kill the remaining two Coppers, reacting your Market Squares for Golds. As long as you have 7 or less Debt, you have a guaranteed Province the next turn. (5 Gold hand of $15 minus 7 Debt is exactly $8.)
  • Turn 5+: Buy Province+

Estimated First Province: Turn 5

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 8

This strategy is wicked fast and is one of the best if not the best two card combo in Dominion.

Another fantastic thing about this line is how quickly you can pivot into engine play, due to the massive amounts of instant payload and buy. You are not hitting more than $15 a turn without draw support, so use the board to improve on this baseline! Also keep in mind that you can buy an extra Copper at any point to not lose a Gold when triggering additional Donates, if you want to continue gaining Golds.

Fool’s Gold + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Fool’s Gold
  • Turn 2: Fool’s Gold
  • Turn 3: Fool’s Gold (or if you have $5+ on this hand, you may Donate immediately to 2 Fool’s Gold, still get the third Fool’s Gold but save a turn in speed.)
  • Turn 4: Donate to 3 Fool’s Gold
  • Turn 5: Pay off debt, buy Fool’s Gold (here you can pivot to the Kingdom itself and play something even better than the baseline.)
  • Turn 6+: Province

Estimated First Province: Turn 6

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 10

Another strong baseline that while playing similar to Vanilla Donate Money, is just simply faster and stronger.

When To Not Pursue Donate Money

All of these strategies are certainly very fast, and often very predetermined to boot! Are there ways to stop these strategies? What is the best way to trip money up, than the classic attacking method? Good Attacks stop money hard as per the usual. Even with access to Donate, junkers like Witch and Mountebank absolutely gum up most of these money strats, giving alternate strategies time to catch up. Discard attacks can work wonders sometimes, although beware of Gold or Fool’s Gold centric money strategies which only need 3 card hands to work! Of course, for the action centric money strategies like Amulet, Enchantress absolutely tears holes into any plans.

Of course, these Donate strategies are still in a lot of ways worse than Donate engines. It’ll be close, but Engines in a lot of cases can end games by Turn 12-13, and should more than catch up by the end. A fast Donate strategy can catch the unprepared slow build engine by surprise, but don’t forget that there are also wicked fast engines. Another disincentive for money is abundance of Alt-VP, which gives the engine player more time to build. Just keep in mind that you are on the clock!

Closing Thoughts

Donate money is an incredibly fast variant of Money, and one that poses interesting questions to the player in any given Donate game. However, in many cases these highlighted strategies (among others) only serve as a baseline, as either a way to kick off the engine even faster or to combo with even more cards in the Kingdom, and you may find yourself only implementing the beginning steps of some of these lines. As with any Donate game, always keep your eyes open for better and more efficient ways to do things!

This entry was posted in Articles, Empires, General Strategy, Individual Card Analysis, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Donate + Money

  1. Jomini says:

    Feodum/Donate is also a very fast money option. T1 $4 or $5 is going to end T3 with no debt and 3 Silvers. T4 is a gold, T5 is Prov. T6 – T10 is likely 2 golds and 3 Provs.

    $3 T1 is Silver/Feodum. Donate on T3. T4 will have 4 Silvers and very likely only 5 debt – buy another Silver. T6 – T11 can again mix Gold/Prov.

    $2 T1 is bad for Feodum, but an opening $5 on a Donate board is rarely going to be hurting that much.

  2. herrab123 says:

    good article. i thought i’d leave some more openings in case anyone was curious.

    bounty hunter + donate (works on $3 and $4 opening)

    t1+2: bh and silver
    t3: trash 5 copper and 2 estates
    t4: bh estate -> pay off debt
    t5: bh copper -> buy gold
    t6: buy gold
    t7: bh copper -> buy province
    t8+: bh province -> buy province

    first province: t7
    4’th province: t10
    eco at 4’th province: 8$ every turn because of bh

    you can also do “t1:bh t2:donate” but it’s not any faster and only works on $4 opening

    **Jack of all trades + donate + non-terminal action card that costs $5 or less and gives +2$**
    i used conclave as an example but mystic and others also work
    4/3 or 3/4 opening

    t1+2 joat + silver
    t3: play joat if you draw it, then donate down to joat and silvers
    t4: play joat and pay off debt
    t5: buy conclave
    t6+ go green:

    first province: t6
    4’th province: t9
    echo at 4’th province 6 silver, joat and conclave

    ******3/4 or 4/3 treasure map + donate******
    t1+2: buy treasure map and silver
    t3: buy treasure map (if you don’t hit 4, buy silver. you will be a turn slower)
    t4: donate and trash coppers and estates
    t5: play tm and payy of some debt
    t6+: finish paying off debt and go green

    first province: t6
    4’th province t9 or t10+duchy
    expected eco at 4’th buy : 4 gold and 1 silver
    may not be much faster than vanila bm donate but it will have more eco at the 4’th province buy.

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