This article was written by Polk5440, with some edits by the Dominion Strategy blog team. If you would like to contribute to the Dominion Strategy Blog, check out the Articles section of the forums, or send a PM to Chris is me.
Projects are one of the new mechanics introduced in Renaissance. They are abilities everyone can have simply by buying them once. Star Chart’s is “When you shuffle, you may pick one of the cards to go on top.” That seems simple enough; and it is! It is also deceptively strong. Star Chart is easily one of the best of the twenty Projects in the expansion.
Being able to pick a card to go on top of your deck every shuffle just makes your deck work better. How much better? Well, it’s tough to quantify. But, you know that dodgy acquaintance of yours? The one who “shuffles” but magically always has great luck getting his key card in hand? Well, now you, too, can shadily shuffle, but legally.
Star Chart’s topdecking effect always gets used once a shuffle. Without condition. For just $3. This is a huge value proposition over many other cards in Dominion that provide conditional topdecking services. Harbinger misses if you don’t have any cards in your discard pile. Pearl Diver misses if you don’t have any cards in your deck. Watchtower doesn’t topdeck unless you have it in hand. Royal Seal doesn’t topdeck unless you have it in play. Nomad Camp only topdecks itself once. The list goes on. Star Chart just works every shuffle, no matter what.
The topdecking effect is freely transferable and not tied down to a particular card like many events and tokens. This is a big advantage over something like Stash. Stash also can be topdecked once a shuffle, but Stash is usually bad, especially in a single copy. It’s just a Silver! Star Chart lets you topdeck a different card every shuffle depending on your needs. And if you really need to topdeck a Silver, you can, without paying $5 for that Silver in the first place.
After playing with Star Chart for a while, I began asking myself, “When wouldn’t I want Star Chart?” The answer I’ve come to is “probably never.” There may be some cases where there isn’t time to waste a buy on Star Chart — perhaps some Donate games — but I haven’t come across one myself, yet. The more pertinent question is usually not whether to buy Star Chart, but when.
Sometimes certain opening buys like Chapel, Page, or Peasant missing the shuffle is game losing. Star Chart is there to help you out and prevent it. For example, opening Chapel and a cantrip like Poacher over Chapel and Silver helps mitigate the probability Chapel misses the shuffle while still giving some economy, but Star Chart eliminates the probability of a miss. Chapel-Star Chart lets you guarantee you will trash four cards in the first shuffle, and then you can use the second hand in the shuffle to start building your economy.
It’s not always correct to open Star Chart, though. Star Chart itself doesn’t give you anything, so if there isn’t something already in your deck that you really want topdecked, it’s best to work up to it. For example, suppose there is a killer $5 you really want, but you open $3-$4. Yes, Silver-Star Chart lets you topdeck the Silver, but that doesn’t actually increase your chances of getting a $5 hand in the next two hands. Silver-Silver actually gives better odds. There might be something better than Silver-Silver to get your deck going in any particular kingdom, but the point is that you don’t need Star Chart immediately unless you have something in your deck that you just can’t afford to have miss the shuffle. Then later you can pick up Star Chart on a spare $3 or spare buy, but not too late because you still will want Star Chart eventually.
Because of its simplicity, Star Chart is one of those cards in Dominion that, when it was first previewed, appeared pretty innocuous to me. However, it turns out to be incredibly strong.