Caleb Stanford Blog


Semifinals -- Dominion Online tournament 2019


games dominion

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

Spoiler:

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

Spoiler:

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

Spoiler:

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

Spoiler:

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

Spoiler:

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

Spoiler:

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

Spoiler:

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.

Quarterfinals -- Dominion Online tournament 2019


games dominion

I won 4 to 3 in the quarterfinals! This was the 6th round, and now there are only 4 players left. Previous post about round 5 is here.


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

Druid has Moon’s Gift, Flame’s Gift, and Mountain’s Gift set aside.

Spoiler:

Most valuable card(s): Chariot Race, Forum, Baker, Recruiter, Magic Lamp.

There is no draw, but Forum and Chariot Race work well together to allow us to set up points every turn if we are careful about it, especially if opponent gets unlucky. Baker is good because there is nothing better to build to, it doesn't reduce hand size and it allows stockpiling coffers for having a double-Province pile out threat. Recruiter and Magic Lamp are good for the usual reasons: excellent in the early game to accelerate Estate trashing and gain a lot of good cards at once when the Lamp pops. Druid is also good to get because it has Flame's Gift for copper trashing and gives +Buy.

I was behind early because my opponent popped Lamp first, but later I was ahead because I had Bakers and opponent didn't, so I had a lot of coffers to win on the last turn. I made a pretty bad endgame misplay that thankfully didn't cost me the game.

Game 2

Kingdom 2

Spoiler:

Most valuable card(s): Amulet, Menagerie, Pathfinding, Devil's Workshop. Honorable mention: Warehouse.

Initial observations about the board: (1) Limited on gains -- there is no way to double-Colony in a turn, but there are some restricted ways to gain extra cards, like Sculptor, Devil's Workshop, Amulet, Duplicate, and I suppose Contraband. (2) Limited on actions -- the only way to play multiple terminals is by saving up villagers with Sculptor, which looks difficult. (3) Draw is excellent, mainly Pathfinding looks good, and the best Pathfinding target looks like Menagerie (turning it into a better-than-lab). Menagerie/Warehouse also looks like a reasonably strong interaction. (4) Amulet is premium trashing.

Building for something strange like Sculptor villagers or Duplicate gains seems not worth it for two reasons: Wall (means lots of minus points) and Colony/Platinum (means small amounts of points don't matter so much compared to just getting Colonies).

So we elect to play with a very clean deck of 2 Amulets, Menageries with Pathfinding and a couple Warehouses, enough money to get Platinum and then Colony, and Devil's Workshop to gain a Menagerie every turn. I also played with a second Devil's Workshop to get some imps, later trashing it to save Wall points. I got a super lucky early draw with Menagerie triggering for +3 cards twice, allowing me to buy Pathfinding early. This probably decided the game, but my opponent also made some very strange buys like Caravan Guard and didn't go for Pathfinding on Menagerie, which seems like really the thing to do here.

Game 3

Kingdom 3

Spoiler:

Most valuable card(s): Overlord, Mountebank, Remake.

If you can get an early lead on this board, you can play 2 or 3 mountebanks a turn and completely drown the opponent's deck in junk. So the goal is to trash down as much as possible and play Mountebank every turn.

Remake open is clear; I also bought Ferry on Mountebank which I think was a mistake; I think Overlord is better. Overlord is very flexible; you can trash if you need to do more trashing, play it as Recruiter if it collides with another action, and play it as Mountebank if you want to attack. I think getting about 2 Overlords early is crucial. I lost partly because I didn't get the Overlords, but also because my Remake missed the shuffle, so I ended up behind and being drowned in junk. Commentators seemed less critical of my play than I thought, so maybe it was mainly the Remake missing.

Game 4

Kingdom 4

Spoiler:

Most valuable card(s): Peddler, Training, Pixie, and Candlestick Maker. Possible honorable mentions: Minion, Talisman?

Peddler looks really good especially with Training, so we want to hit several actions in play with several buys early. That makes an early Candlestick Maker or two good (I even opened Candlestick Maker), and that also makes Pixie could because several of the boons help a lot with this: Swamp's Gift (getting Wisps that can help with having actions in play), and Forest's Gift (landing it on the right turn means two more Peddlers).

Both of us got Plan on Pixie early to help trash more quickly, buying Pixies and Candlestick Makers. I bought Minion, which I think paid off for the attack; a single Shanty Town early on is also quite good (I opened it) because it is guaranteed to draw. However, my opponent got the right boons at the right time, so was very ahead on Peddlers, and had Training on Peddler as well, and it was too hard to catch up from there. Something I'm wondering about is whether early Talisman is good; some Spectators brought it up as a possible option, as it allows draining Pixies or Peddlers very quickly. I bought it only later as a pile-out threat, but I was already behind and had not enough economy, so my opponent just bought Province and I had no effective response to that.

Game 5

Kingdom 5

Spoiler:

Most valuable card(s): Steward, Patron, Watchtower, and Dominate. Honorable mention: Forum.

This is my favorite board from the set. There is premium trashing (Steward or Amulet). But there are no actions besides Patron villagers, and no consistent way to draw. So the question is, how can you build to Dominate, if at all? (Building to Dominate usually wins, if it is possible, because Dominate is just a ton of points.)

There are basically two ways. One of them is to use Forum and Crypt with several Golds in deck; Forum can sift through and find the Golds, and Crypt can set aside money to give you a six-card hand for the next several turns. The other way is to use Patron and Watchtower: Patron can save up villagers early, then you build to a deck of like, 6 Patrons, a Watchtower or maybe 2, and Steward (leftover from trashing stuff), with everything else trashed.

My opponent went for the Forum/Crypt idea, and I built the Patron/Watchtower deck. Patron/Watchtower in the end was stronger. I also had 2 Forums to help sift through and find the right hand to kick off. But it was a close game: we both hit Dominate on I think 3 consecutive turns, but finally on the 4th turn my opponent missed Dominate.

Game 6

Kingdom 6

Spoiler:

Most valuable card(s): Sculptor, Magic Lamp. Honorable Mention: Werewolf, Hunting Grounds, Conquest?

This is a messy and difficult board. Again no +actions except Sculptor villages (how does this keep happening?). So the natural deck to build is basically Money, with some good cards for that being Poacher and Sculptor.

Sculptor has some nice interactions however: if it gains Silver you can save up a few villagers, which makes Werewolf or Hunting Grounds pretty good to buy. And if you happen to line up several Sculptors, as well as maybe a Wine Merchant, you can double Conquest for a lot of points. For example, 3 Sculptors + Wine Merchant means 5 + 7 = 12 VP.

The other thing about the board is Orchard points: you want 3 of, at least, Poacher, Secret Cave, and Sculptor, probably Werewolf also. So you end up building this really messy deck with a bunch of treasures and lots of actions. Werewolf is maybe nicer than Hunting Grounds because if you don't have the villagers to waste on it, you can just use it to attack. I lost probably because I went to hard for Orchard points; I bought 3 Wine Merchants, which just clog the deck basically, and I didn't save enough villagers to pull enough good Conquest turns to catch up, while my opponent was just Provincing.

I am curious if playing for a big megaturn here is viable (with Sculptor and Conquest points). You want to have a few Sculptors and Wine Merchants in deck, and several Werewolves and Hunting Grounds. In the game, it was not possible for me to go for this because I didn't save enough villagers; I used a couple villagers in order to pop Magic Lamp.

Game 7

Kingdom 7

Spoiler:

Most valuable card(s): Lackeys, Sentry, Count, Grand Market, Throne Room, Poor House.

I won this as second player, and this is the kind of board where first player should generally win. We both got Lackeys Silver on the open, and Sentry as first 5, but I got Count as the second 5, which seemed to pay off. Sentry only lets you trash from deck, and Count means you can trash from hand which is very valuable, and then once you are thin you can hit Grand Market very soon after. Lackeys is for early accelerating turns to hit good price points and trashing.

Once you are trashed down you just want to hit Grand Market as soon as possible, and soon after Poor House, Throne Room, etc. I'm not convinced by Bazaar (I don't want it here, would rather have Throne Room on Grand Market for actions, with Lackeys to help).

Dominion Online tournament 2019 (Round 5)


games dominion

Well, I won another round of the Dominion Online tournament…which means I have to make another post. It was another close match: at first I won 3 games, then my opponent won 3 games, so it went to the game 7 tiebreaker. I’m now in the top 8 (top 4 places get a small cash prize). Previous post about round 4 is here.


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

Druid has Swamp’s Gift, Field’s Gift, and Earth’s Gift set aside.

Spoiler:

Most valuable card(s): Masquerade, Druid.

These are some of the best gifts that Druid can have -- and Masquerade and Will-o-Wisp are the only real draw. Masquerade is great trashing early as usual. So we build to an engine that has a lot of Wisps. Settlers is kinda draw as well, if you are clever. The engine is mostly Masquerade, Crown, and Worker's Village; payload is Druid, Armory, and later either Crown on money or Gold.

Guide is pretty important here to avoid dudding. And Borrow gives you a 4-card hand so it makes Guide especially important. I won because my opponent did not get guide, so they dudded after attempting a pile-out and made it easy for me to pile out. I didn't get Armory (so my only gaining for engine pieces was Druid's Earth's Gift) -- according to chat commentators, I really should have gotten Armory.

Game 2

Kingdom 2

Spoiler:

Most valuable card(s): Chapel, Vassal.

Chapel to trash down extremely quickly, then buy a Squire, then basically transition immediately to Vassal payload. My opponent's big misplay was getting a Squire for 5 which just isn't a fast way to build (Market is strictly better). I didn't build optimally, probably needed to buy more Vassals and I bought Nobles or Squire instead, but I was still pretty ahead the entire game after that.

Game 3

Kingdom 3

Spoiler:

Most valuable card(s): Artificer and Cursed Village.

There is no trashing, but these two cards combo beautifully, and there's lots of other draw-to-X support: Lighthouses (which you may need anyway), Scheme to set up the turns, and Horse Traders.

I won partly by luck, but maybe also because I held on to the Flag from Flagbearer the whole game, and got Necromancers which my opponent didn't. My opponent won the Cursed Villages 7 to 3, but then failed to pile out on the critical turn, which left a pile out for me.

Game 4

Kingdom 4

Spoiler:

Most valuable card(s): Urchin, Haggler, Den of Sin.

I threw the game on turn 3: we both opened double Urchin for trashing, but I failed to use the Urchin/Save interaction to make my Urchins line up on the 2nd shuffle, and then they unluckily failed to line up on the 3rd shuffle as well. As commentators pointed out, the game was basically over from the moment I failed to save Urchin while my opponent correctly did so to line up Urchins. Beyond this, the way you play the game is to get just a few Den of Sins and a Haggler, then Province early using Haggler to gain an extra Den of Sin on each turn, or a Gold.

Game 5

Kingdom 5

Spoiler:

Most valuable card(s): Tournament, Seer, Pathfinding. Also, Remake and Gear.

This is a race for Tournament. We want to open Gear/Remake, trash Estates -> Silvers on the second shuffle, and then use Gear to line up 8 as soon as possible. The deck we build after that will be mostly Seers drawing up Tournament, Silver, and/or Caravan Guard (if you even buy Caravan Guard over Silver). We both played it well, but even though I got to Province first (I was player 1), my opponent lined up Province and Tournament first, thereby gaining Trusty Steed, soon after getting Followers, and sealing the game. That's just how Tournament games go sometimes.

Game 6

Kingdom 6

Spoiler:

Most valuable card(s): Quarry and Squire. (And Chapel.)

I got outplayed badly here. Note to self: Quarry *loves* any card that can give a lot of +Buy. The right strategy is to open Chapel and then get 2 Quarries, 2 Squires, and trash everything else as soon as possible. Once you have this deck, you can basically buy out the entire board. For example, if you play 2 Lost Cities, then 3-4 Squires all for +Buy. That's 7-9 buys, and everything is free or almost-free with Quarry. You can get the entire stack of Lost Cities, two Treasure Maps if you want economy, or just buy more Squires for insane pile pressure. (I did some stuff with an early Dismantle instead of a second Quarry, which just isn't fast enough. Nothing else on this board is fast enough to beat Quarry/Squire.)

Game 7

Kingdom 7

Spoiler:

Most valuable card(s): Platinum, Sculptor, Ironmonger, and Duplicate.

There's no draw; this is basically a money board where we want to get to Platinum and Colony as soon as possible. Ironmonger works pretty well with money, as does 1-3 Sculptors (but not any more), because they can gain Silvers and later Ironmongers when there are spare villagers. Later in the game it's nice to pick up lots of Duplicates for points, which can also threaten piling Duplicate or Duchy piles. I got several Ventures; it wasn't terrible, but spectators didn't like it that much. I mostly won because although my opponent got several Platina faster than me, I was lucky enough to hit 11 a few more times and my opponent's Platina missed the shuffle. Once you have a points lead there are lots of ways to keep it; Salt the Earth aggressively on Colony is good, as is gaining Duplicate with Sculptor and then putting it on the mat for pile pressure.

There is some speculation here about whether you can play towards Duchy/Duke by building a strange deck with Procession, Duplicate, Sculptor, and even Rogue. This seems interesting, but without trashing I wasn't willing to try it, and I think the money thing just wins because Colonies are a lot of points. Without Colony, I would definitely go for Duchy/Duke here.

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