I hosted a tournament this past weekend in Cincinnati, we had 17 people show up for it and things went pretty well. It’s the seventh IRL tournament I’ve hosted and the seventh unique winner we’ve had; there’s a large amount of Dominion talent in the area and a significant number of people traveled to attend, including my first contestant from out of the country!

The tournament consisted of three-player games, using all expansions. You can view more details about the tournament format here and find the spreadsheet I used to organize kingdoms here. The winner of the tournament this time was Jim Mounce, part of a very enthusiastic group from Indianapolis who have recently become regulars to the tournaments I host (and may host some tournaments of their own soon!) Other players who won portions of the prize pool were Ben King, Adam Hopkins, and Kevin Thompson — congrats to them and thanks to everyone who showed up and performed well. There were a lot of very talented people at this tournament.

Most of the purpose of this post was to talk about the designed kingdoms I came up with for the finals. The 9 players who made it past the first round of the tournament got to play four kingdoms I designed for this tournament; I never considered myself to be all that great at kingdom design but feedback from the designed kingdoms was overwhelmingly positive so I guess that’ll be a staple in my future tournaments. In any case, 9 people got to play these four boards and I’ll share my thoughts as well as what I saw from people while they were playing these kingdoms.

It took me a few months to design, playtest, and tweak these kingdoms, so I’m reasonably confident that what I’m saying isn’t total garbage, but hey I could be wrong…

Game 1: Crossroads, Squire, Apothecary, Gear, Duplicate, Mill, Duke, Festival, Talisman, Prince; Windfall, Palace

If you’re thinking that this looks very familiar to one of the kingdoms I used for my 2P tournament six months ago, you’re right. Not many people got to play it then and nobody who did built a deck close to the one I really like here. Also in 3P games it gets a little more interesting. There are two main directions you can go here: Duplicate/Duke, or the Crossroads engine.

Duplicate/Duke is pretty straight-forward: Get lots of Duplicates (4-6), get them all on the Tavern Mat, get a bunch of Duchies in one turn. Repeat with Dukes, have a lot of points. Support for this deck includes Gear and Mill, but surprisingly I don’t think Talisman, Crossroads or Squire really fit in here.

The Crossroads engine, though, is something a little more complex. The main idea is to get four Gears, playing two each turn and setting aside four green cards, and also Prince a Crossroads. You are able to start your turn by effectively “thinning” your starting Estates and having nine cards in hand with three Actions. You can use Festival/Crossroads for an insane amount of draw and you’ll find you’re piloting a deck whose draw gets stronger as you add more green. With just these four cards you can build a pretty powerful deck, but it doesn’t stop there: Windfall allows you to add payload lightning-fast and has great synergy with Palace, Mill helps you hit the price points you need with Gear’s help, along with providing you with some reliability with Crossroads; and Squire/Duplicate can find their places in the deck to accelerate growth and further increase the point-scoring potential of the deck when it’s time.

Surprisingly, after several games, I found that Apothecary is actually not good enough to really fit in, in spite of the fact that you can’t trash Coppers and that it has a ton of support here — it turns out you can put together a deck that’s amazing quickly and reliably without it.

Really, it’s Gear who is the star of the show here, but Crossroads/Gear/Prince at the core of the deck have such strong synergy that this deck breaks a lot of the usual rules of the “Crossroads decks” that you’ll see every once in a while. A lot of those decks need a lot of green to function and just can’t tolerate treasures; also the Crossroads decks tend to have severe reliability issues. This deck flies in the face of both of those, because it’s just so powerful.

I saw a couple of people playing a deck that had a similar concept to this at the tournament — it was at most one per game and they all won handily. I don’t believe they committed quite as hard as you can really afford to commit here, with the four Gears and multiple Windfalls, but they had the Crossroads/Gear/Prince core of the deck found.

Game 2: Native Village, Ambassador, Village, Mining Village, Poacher, Artificer, Library, Pillage, Rabble, Soothsayer; Donate, Wall

Ambassador is on my list of banned cards for 3P tournaments; usually nobody “wins the Ambassador war” and the game turns into a drawn-out slog that isn’t much fun. Wall can be unpopular because it gives you negative VP (among other reasons) and can be especially offensive with Ambassador-junk flying around. Donate is loved by many, but a common criticism is that it makes thinning and building your deck trivial. But what if you put them all in the same kingdom? Turns out there’s a very interesting dynamic to play with.

If you just look at these three things plus Soothsayer, you have a pretty unique start to the game: Soothsayer works pretty well for getting Golds and taking part in the junkfest for a while; but the Curses will eventually run and Ambassador will be necessary to keep your opponents from building too good of a deck. You also don’t want too many Golds since there is no +Buy. The games at the tournament, from what I saw, were mostly about the dynamics between these cards — once the Curses run, Donate for the second or third time, pick up a terminal draw card, and just go straight for green and hope it’s enough. The tournament champion was clever enough to spot an opponent playing Rabbles, so he kept some Native Villages around in order to counter those Rabble attacks by tucking his VP cards safely away to stay “thin.” But there’s more…

These decks are still vulnerable to sustained junking, and the threat of losing too many points to Wall can allow a player who continues to build to really shut their opponents down. There is a deck to be built here that is one level beyond. Turns from that deck look like this:

Play a couple of Villages/Rabbles to draw most the deck. Play Artificer, discard 5 cards, gain Pillage to the top of the deck. Play another Artificer, discard a Province (bought last turn), then play Native Village to mat the Province. Play Pillage, maybe play Ambassador(s) to keep thin and keep junking, then play a Library to draw the Spoils; buy Province. Rabble/Library are somewhat interchangeable here, but sustained Rabble attacks can shut down your opponents so it’s important to have a few Rabbles at least.

This deck stays thin while greening, and manages to play three different types of attacks on opponents every turn — even with Donate around, I don’t think decks will be able to buy Provinces under this assault. Plus, it’s sustainable for the most part, since you’ll be able to stop your opponents from doing much to attack you once you get this online.

Furthermore, the deck gives you options. You can remove the Pillage and just have two Golds in the deck. You can use Mining Villages and trash them on the last turn for Wall points. You can work in more of one type of attack if you feel that’s appropriate, and if things get too hairy you can always Donate to make sure this somewhat delicate deck doesn’t fall apart too badly.

I didn’t see anyone attempt to build this deck at the tournament, but I think it’s quite good.

Game 3: Pawn, Pearl Diver, Gladiator/Fortune, Harbinger, Warehouse, Diplomat, Throne Room, Baker, Mandarin, Mine; Dominate

There’s no thinning here; there are tools to make an “engine” but the draw is very weak (Diplomat only) and those two things combine to make a deck that’s pretty unreliable. Without some severe overbuilding, the best I was able to do was a deck that kicked off every other turn.

But there’s Dominate, and that’s a lot of points. So you want to put a lot of cards in the deck, and they work well enough together that you probably want to go for this weird Warehouse/Diplomat/Throne Room thing with Bakers in order to hit $14 as much as you can. Fortune helps a lot here too.

Surprisingly, Mine is great here — it has everything going for it. You can open with it and another good card because of Baker, and its effect is actually quite good because there’s no thinning and you want to like, have a lot of money. I saw many people build decks capable of Dominating a few times over the course of the game, and usually the person who Dominated most… dominated the scoreboard. Oh, I’m hilarious aren’t I?

But there’s a hidden gem here that nobody found during the tournament. If you can manage to find the following five cards in your hand: Fortune/Gold/Gold/Gold/Copper, you can buy Dominate/Mandarin and topdeck those five cards, meaning you can Dominate every turn. While the draw resources on this board are weak, there are a ton of tools to help you get these five cards in hand quickly: Mine is a rock star here, Warehouse/Diplomat is the core of the deck, and even Gladiator helps you out by probably giving you a Gold when you pick up that Fortune. Throne Room is pretty good here too. I was able to get this “golden deck” set up as quickly as turn 8 in my playtesting, and it almost always happened by T10. Being able to Dominate every turn with an option to double Province to just end the game did way better than any “engine” I was able to build here, and is a pretty unique payload. Before, the only real Mandarin combo out there was Mandarin/Horn of Plenty, which required a ton of support, but Fortune does the job all by itself, and Dominate made the payload of that Mandarin trick actually worth going for here.

Game 4: Fool’s Gold, Fishing Village, Forager, Jack of All Trades, Coin of the Realm, Charm, Counterfeit, Journeyman, Hoard, Watchtower; Battlefield, Keep

There’s a lot of stuff going on here, and this game tends to be over super-fast so there’s just not enough time to go for all of it. You have Fishing Village/Forager/Jack/Watchtower, which you can do for a while before you start shoving treasures in the deck as fast as you can with Hoard. You can also go for other sources of draw like Journeyman, other support cards like Charm or Coin of the Realm, and other payloads like Counterfeit/Hoard or Fool’s Gold. You can mix and match a lot of these things to build lots of different decks here, and there’s no telling which combination is right until you actually get in a game and see what your opponents are doing.

And that’s because Keep is weird, and it gets a lot tougher because of the fact that this is an IRL 3P game and there are eight different treasure piles that you may want to KEEP track of (oh yes). Oh yeah, and Battlefield is also a pretty big deal here because a lot of times, the temptation is to keep building and building with Keep around (because it can be the best points play for you) but not so much here.

This is a really tough board to play and it can be very different depending on what your opponents do.