Exorcist and its Spooky Spirits

This article was written by Puzzle Box in collaboration with the Dominion Strategy blog team. Puzzle Box has been writing a lot lately; thanks for all of your contributions so far! – Chris

Exorcist is powerful and a unique variation on trash-for-benefit. It single-handedly offers trashing, draw, and a (quite unwieldy) source of actions, so its presence alone essentially guarantees the possibility of playing a controlled deck.

Because Exorcist is a Night card, it’s functionally nonterminal and synergizes well with terminal draw. Even normally-weak variations of terminal draw like Moat are effective to open alongside Exorcist. Exorcist is typically at its strongest when turning your Estates into Wisps, then trashing early cards (such as Silver) that have outlived their usefulness into Imps and Wisps. It can trash 0-cost cards such as Copper, Curse, and Ruins, but because it does not get any benefit for trashing these, it welcomes support from other trashers that can do so more efficiently. If you do intend to have Exorcist do all your trashing, consider picking up a second copy. That copy can become an Imp or Wisp when you’re done with it.

The Spirits

Will-o-Wisp

Will-o-Wisp is an innocuous but helpful source of draw, and with Exorcist, you can expect to gain at least a few from your starting Estates. Wisp is good when your cards are cheap, so it’s nice early on, but also means the more Wisps and Imps you get, the better your Wisps become. If an Exorcist is pumping out Spirits on repeat, consider taking Wisp over Imp once your Spirit count becomes high enough — Imp gets worse in multiples while Wisp gets better.

Imp

The first few copies of Imp you gain are excellent ways to draw cards, as the unique-card condition will be easy to satisfy. As you gain more, they act less like Lab and more like Moat, so they are far more impressive as a supporting card than as your primary source of draw. Carefully consider your sequencing of cantrips and draw to maximize your odds that the Imps can play them.In general you will want to play the cards you have many copies of and the biggest pieces of draw first to help line things up. Also note that actions that leave play (such as Distant Lands) can be played by Imp repeatedly in the same turn.

Ghost

I’ll put it bluntly — Ghost is weak and usually best avoided. The opportunity cost is typically very high, since having cards you don’t want that cost 5+ is rare. Additionally, the reward is dubious because Ghost is difficult to control and only operates every other turn. The one niche Ghost really fills is that it allows you to play multiple terminal actions in the same turn, so if there are no villages and powerful terminal payload makes you desperate to do so (here’s looking at you, Goons), you may turn to Ghost. Gold-gainers are a nice way to get Ghost material in the situations where you do want it, and note that Exorcist itself can help set up your Ghosts — playing an Exorcist to make an Imp or Wisp before playing your Ghost guarantees that you have something nice in your discard for Ghost to find. If you do not set up your Ghost, be aware that it has a mandatory effect, so finding trashers such as Remake can be a serious risk.

In Summary

  • Exorcist is an excellent card, offering trashing, draw, and a weak source of actions
  • It’s at its best Estates and cheap, early cards like Silver
  • Pairing Exorcist with terminals is effective, especially with terminal draw
  • Wisp is a low-cost way to get a bit of draw, especially strong early and in multiples
  • Imp is very effective draw in low numbers, but more are weaker
  • Ghost is generally weak, but can be a source of extra actions if you need them badly
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1 Response to Exorcist and its Spooky Spirits

  1. Jomini says:

    Ghost is decidedly not weak. Consider Ghost-Imp. Say I buy a $5. Next turn I exorcise it into Ghost. Turn after that I gain an Imp and play Ghost-Imp. This starts me off with 9 cards and almost certainly 3 actions. If this sounds similar to Tactician, it should. Buying a Tac at 5 requires waiting a turn to get its value; often at the price of throwing away my entire next hand. So Ghost-Imp gives you Tac-like effects about one turn later than Tac. The lack of a +buy is also harsh, but may not matter if you have plenty of gains. Tac is stronger because you can buy it and not have to collide with anything special. Ghost-Imp is stronger because you can play treasures.

    With any sort of semi-decent gainer, Ghost-Imp is stronger once you have it running, but is a turn/shuffle slower than Tac. This is often a very strong tradeoff for strength over speed. More often than not Colony boards with Exorcist should either plan on getting Ghosts or skipping Exorcist entirely. Other engine-bait setups, like alt-VP (e.g. Tomb, Orchard, Monument, Fairgrounds) or strong attack setups (e.g. Gship/Masq, Rabble), can also make the longer-stronger setup of
    Ghost worth the investment.

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