Caleb Stanford Blog

Semifinals -- Dominion Online tournament 2019


After a close match against one of the very top seeded players going to game 7 tiebreaker, I finally lost a game! I will play one more match, to determine whether I get 3rd or 4th place. Previous post about round 6 (quarterfinals) is here.

I won games 2, 4, and 6. In Games 1 through 5 we played similar strategies and there was a fair amount of luck, but both of us made some definite misplays. In Game 6 I played a completely different strategy that seemed to win convincingly. In Game 7 I played significantly worse.

For each kingdom, try to guess the most valuable cards, i.e. which cards are most important to the best strategy. For reference, a list of all Dominion cards can be found here. Good luck!

Game 1

Kingdom 1


Most valuable card(s): Encampment, Sentry, Dismantle.

Encampment is the only draw here, so I cared a lot about the split (there are only 5 Encampments to go around) and opened Encampment/Dismantle to get an early Gold. Dismantling Estates into Copper and Gold is usually bad, but I made an exception here in order to try activating Encampments early on. Then I aggressively bought Encampments in the following turns, with 1 Masquerade.

However my opponent had 5/2 and opened Sentry/Encampment, then playing Sentry on turns 3, 4, and 5 to become very well-trashed, which was just too strong. In response to this, I had to make risky Encampment plays, hoping to find Gold, but that didn't work out (after doing this twice, and I think it was necessary to risk, the Encampment split went from 3/2 to 1/4).

Some spectators didn't like the Dismantle opening but I think I still like it; getting the Encampment split 3 to 2 seems really valuable to me as it is the only draw, and if you can activate them early with Golds then they are not just dead cards in your deck. No one got Band of Misfits but with an early 5 (maybe the second 5, after Sentry) it is a very flexible terminal, it can be Masquerade, Amulet, or Dismantle, whichever is most useful at the time.

Game 2

Kingdom 2


Most valuable card(s): Recruiter, Tragic Hero, Bank.

You can (almost) ignore everything else here. I think Fishing Village is a trap; Actions look nice but the game doesn't last long enough, Silver is better for hitting price points. With Borrow, you open Recruiter, probably with Silver or Sage. Then you just aggressively buy the Tragic Hero stack. When a Tragic Hero pops, it becomes a Bank, and you buy several more Tragic Heroes until they are gone. Then on your last turn you should have played several Tragic Heroes, put several Banks in play, and had enough money for 5 Provinces. I won this. I was also always considering Junk Dealer but there's no time, and besides, trashing the coppers on a big turn hurts your economy since it reduces the value of Bank.

Game 3

Kingdom 3


Most valuable card(s): Highway, Counterfeit, Recruiter, Armory.

Highway is on the board and there's gains (Counterfeit and Armory), so this board is about getting lots of Highways and gaining 8 Provinces. Lots of things help along the way; Recruiter and Counterfeit are good trashing, Pooka helps a lot once you have a couple villagers saved, and Scrying Pool is really efficient draw.

Cursed Gold from Pooka makes the opening more interesting. I opened Recruiter/Armory on 5/4; opponent opened Recruiter/Oasis on 6/3. My Recruiter missed the second shuffle, but the Armory also didn't necessarily work out so well. My plan was to gain Potion with it and go for Scrying Pools, but based on the game I think maybe you wait a few turns to get Armory, once you can use it with Highway to gain 5s.

Game 4

Kingdom 4


Most valuable card(s): Cursed Village, Storeroom, University, Recruiter.

So many Recruiter boards. This board also has the Cursed Village/Storeroom combo. Urchin is a trap I think; we both skipped it on the opening. The problem is if your Urchins don't collide you are very sad compared to someone who opens with Storeroom/Potion (for example) to make a smooth second shuffle buying University. And then once they have Cursed Villages, the discard attack doesn't hurt them and might help them. The Mercenary trashing is good for you, but it's not clear there is time for it.

I opened Storeroom/Silver and opponent opened Storeroom/Potion; then we both get 2 Universities, a Recruiter, and Cursed Villages and Storerooms (in some order). Recruiter makes Storeroom really nice because you can play it first if you don't have a Cursed Village in hand. I was ahead but almost lost this; my opponent had a pile-out but misplayed it. Maybe I also had a pile-out on the previous turn, but it was hard to say.

Game 5

Kingdom 5


Most valuable card(s): Highway, Forager. Honorable Mention: Lost City and Courtyard.

Another Highway board with +Buy, so the goal is to get Highways and trash down with Forager, then buy 8 Provinces. I don't think I totally misplayed this, but my opponent built more efficiently and was ahead. I opened Forager/Silver because I want to hit 5 early, then bought a second Forager and third later. Opponent opened Jester/Courtyard (you have to buy something on 5/2 and Jester makes some sense). We both got 2 Lost Cities but I think only getting 1 might be OK here, Highway might just be better. Also you get Markets once you are trashed down and need the +Buy in place of Forager, but at that point the game is already basically over due to piles.

Game 6

Kingdom 6


Most valuable card(s): Research, Treasure Trove, Counterfeit, Goons.

There are no actions, but Research is technically draw. It needs food to trash and set aside a lot of cards -- Gold is perfect for this, and Treasure Trove gains Golds. So you can combine these to play a deck which draws a lot of cards every turn (half the deck, roughly), and plays Goons hopefully every turn, and uses Counterfeit and Upgrade to trash extra Coppers and such.

The difficulty is that a money strategy should be very fast as well, just buying a lot of money cards with Counterfeit, Goons, Treasure Trove. This is what my opponent did, and also got Marauder to junk me, although it seems the Marauder wasn't too effective in the end (there is not enough time to play terminals other than Goons, I guess).

It was cool to see my more-interesting deck win in the end! I made some misplays but still bought enough points over two turns (3 provinces, 3 duchies, and an estate I believe). It was close, but if I had not misplayed, based on spectator comments, I think my deck strategy is a lot better and it would not have been close.

Game 7

Kingdom 7


Most valuable card(s): Donate, Peasant, Artisan, Knights, Torturer.

I was player 1 on a Donate board, so I should be basically guaranteed to win this, but after an early unlucky draw on turn 5, I thought I was behind and some of my plays were quite questionable.

Turn 1 is buy Peasant and turn 2 is donate down to 4 coppers and a Peasant. Except if you have 5/2 you can Donate turn 1, buy Peasant turn 2 which is even better. Then you want Artisan as fast as possible. From here is where I messed up; I got Mystic instead of Artisan to be safe so that my shuffle was guaranteed, which seems reasonable, but then I got more Mystic and Shanty Town, basically as utility cards to line up shuffles when I should have just gone straight for Torturer and Acting Troupe to start drawing and attacking. My opponent got Torturer and Acting Troupe in play faster, with a couple Artisans and Disciple to gain stuff. From there, you get Knights, and once you play a few knights it's completely devastating. My deck was trashed down to 6 cards, and from there it is mainly trying desperate things in hopes of an early pile-out or something.

Edited on .