Dominion: Winter 2018 Tournament summary

This weekend I hosted my eighth Dominion tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio; we had 23 people turn out for this one, which is the largest field we’ve ever had. The interesting thing is that a lot of new faces were here for this tournament from groups I had no direct connection with, I’m really hoping that this is an indication that word is spreading about the fun and well-run Dominion tournaments that are regularly happening and this will only become bigger as these tournaments continue.

This field featured my youngest contestant, a record number of Adams (there were two, not including myself!), and for the first time we have a repeat champion: Kevin Thompson! The other people who won portions of the prize pool were Adam Hopkins in second place, and Adam Blasch and Ben Voorhorst who split the third and fourth place prizes (instead of playing a tiebreaker game).

The tournament consisted of two-player games, and I designed four kingdoms for use in the finals. You can find a list of all of the kingdoms used here, along with some other information about the setup of the event. This post will discuss in detail the four designed kingdoms, as well as a fifth kingdom that I designed but didn’t use in the finals (it’s table 1 in the spreadsheet).

In two-player tournaments, there are much fewer games played with these kingdoms, so there may be a few perspectives out there that I didn’t see during the tournament. This post will share those kingdoms and I’ll add my thoughts about the design and play of these kingdoms. I’ve done quite a bit of playtesting so I think I have the best stuff nailed down but of course I may have missed something…

Table 1: Farmland, Bandit, Forum, Rats, Secret Passage, Moneylender, Devil’s Workshop, Vassal, Market Square, Vagrant, Save, Ritual, Shelters

This one was not part of the finals, it was the fifth designed kingdom I had, but there are only four that I use for the finals. This means that I did get to see more people play this one. I designed this one to just be fun to play.

So there’s quite a bit you can’t do here — there’s no “real” draw other than Imp, and there’s no village other than Necropolis. However, there’s a ton of synergy between lots of different cards here, which make for a deck that just feels good to play. There are two “packages” here:

  1. Secret Passage and Forum can enable Vassal and Vagrant to be quite good. Vagrant can kind of be used as draw, if you set it up with a Secret Passage, play the Vagrant, and then play another Secret Passage or a Forum to filter out the bad stuff. Being able to set up your Vassals to hit non-terminals is a pretty powerful effect as well.
  2. There’s no way to really get rid of your Shelters, but Farmland and Rats can allow you to get some benefits out of them. If you can set it up, you could trash both Hovel and Overgrown Estate with a single Farmland buy, and maybe you want to keep the Necropolis around? (I don’t really think you need it though), but Farmland can be pretty useful here as a Silver-that’s-only-good-for-buying-Provinces-and-doesn’t-work-well-if-you-have-more-than-one-at-a-time, or a pretty nice Ritual target.

So there’s this tension between wanting to green early because of Forum and wanting to build more because you can get lots of points from Ritual while increasing the capabilities of your deck. I saw a lot of people try a lot of different things, but my favorite moment was when someone managed to reveal a hand of all Rats after playing a Rats. That’s how you know you’re truly HWinning.

To open on this board, I would stack a 4/3 and just get Moneylender/Market Square. If they collide you’re very happy to grab an early Gold, and Silver just isn’t so important early on because the next few cards I want to get are Devil’s Workshop and about 55 Secret Passages.

Finals set 1: Prince, Fairgrounds, Rogue, Tragic Hero, Spice Merchant, Sea Hag, Armory, Exorcist, Merchant, Encampment/Plunder, Ball

Why hello there, Sea Hag. I love a board where you can just ignore her (I’d say it’s a majority of 2P boards where you see her, actually) but sadly this is not one of them. Yes, you can deal with the purples but it’s something that slows down your opponent enough that I think you need to go for it. Also, later on she can be Exorcised into an Imp (theme?) which is quite nice. In the two games that were played with this kingdom, one person went for the lovely lady, the other didn’t, and the person who got all of the purples lost the game.

There’s some other cool interactions going on here, though. +Buy is really limited, since there is no way to play a Tragic Hero, still have actions left, and keep the poor guy alive. It also feels pretty bad to Armory a Silver just to trash it to Spice Merchant for a buy, so you have to leverage the gaining ability of Rogue to gain Tragic Heroes back from the trash, and you really want to be playing a Ghost to hit a Tragic Hero each turn so you can get two buys from him while he kicks the bucket yet again. He can also gain a Plunder on his way out that you should be able to draw this turn pretty easily.

There are a lot of key splits to play around — Encampment/Plunder is important as always, of course the Curses matter a lot, but Fairgrounds can be a pretty big deal too. Opening here is extremely tough to figure out as well, but I would personally stack a 5/2, get a Ball for a Sea Hag and an Exorcist, and then just pay off the -$1 token on my second turn. If I couldn’t stack my deck I’d just open Sea Hag/Silver with a 4/3 and aim to pick up Exorcist and Spice Merchant ASAP.

I had cute little names for each of these finals kingdoms. The name I have for this is a mild Game of Thrones spoiler so I won’t explicitly post it here, but it has to do with the poor Tragic Hero being brought back to life only to be killed again and again.

Finals set 2: Counting House, Minion, Royal Carriage, Distant Lands, Council Room, Ghost Town, Storeroom, Leprechaun, Coin of the Realm, Chapel, Travelling Fair, Fountain

This board was only played once, sadly; sometimes that’s just how it goes. I really enjoyed putting this one together, the idea behind it was that I wanted the Counting House/Travelling Fair combo to be present, but also the hard-counter of Minion. But I also wanted Minion to feel bad to play, so the only support it has here is Royal Carriage and Travelling Fair (and Chapel, obvs.) so the deck takes quite a while to build and doesn’t green particularly well, especially because it doesn’t have much of a chance to pick up Fountain points if it wants to stay viable. Any other deck you want to build can’t really splash a Minion play because you’ll be attacking yourself just as much as your opponent, so I wanted to make it so that the combo could even be viable in the face of the hard counter. After some playtesting, the two strategies end up being pretty close, surprisingly.

But that’s not all, I wanted MOAR layers! So I thought that including Council Room would be fun, that way the combo deck player could have to play around potentially drawing extra cards, which can be pretty bad in certain situations — not quite as bad as being hit by Minion, though (or is it?). The Council Room deck has a lot of great enablers here and can also go for Fountain points — Coin of the Realm is a rock star here, and Royal Carriage does some work, Storeroom is great for reliability, too, it turns out you can have a very large deck here and still be quite reliable.

…in fact, even though you can live the Travelling Fair/Chapel dream and stack your opening hand so that you can trash three Estates on T2 (this is quite good for the Minion deck), it turns out that just makes the Council Room deck worse. Once you get going you can topdeck Council Rooms and Royal Carriages each hand so that you’re reliable, and just draw a billion Coppers every turn (yes, you’re buying Coppers with all of your extra buys, even after you have Fountain points). It’s very easy to activate Leprechaun in this deck (Reserve cards are great for this, especially Coin of the Realm) so you can make good use of your Wishes if you should ever find yourself with 15-20 Coppers, a Storeroom, and a Wish in hand… the title of this kingdom comes in for this situation.

So there are three decks you can build: the Minion deck, the Counting House combo deck, and the Council Room deck. The matchups between each of these are quite interesting, but I think the Council Room deck is just the most powerful one, which is OK with me. I’d probably open Council Room/Coin if I had the choice, but a Storeroom/Silver opening is quite good here too, especially if you can high-roll and get a Council Room AND two Coins on that next shuffle.

The title of this kingdom is “I wish for a Counting House.”

Finals set 3: Capital, Inn, Cobbler, Sacrifice, Conclave, Feodum, Ironworks, Shepherd, Secret Cave, Menagerie, Raid, Scouting Party

Who doesn’t like Menagerie? Nobody, yeah that’s what I thought. Secret Cave is also my favorite card from Nocturne, and goes quite well with Menagerie. The tough thing here is that you can build a neat Menagerie deck, but with Capital as the only source of +Buy, it’s really hard to score a lot of points on your turns, so is building really worth it? Then there’s Feodum with Ironworks AND Cobbler, but only Raid to gain Silvers? How are you going to make that work? You can do a lot of cool stuff on this board, but scoring points is not so easy. So how do you do it?

The neat thing about this board is that you can build up really quickly using Menagerie as your main source of draw, and you can shove a lot of Cobblers and Ironworks into your deck; this buildup is so good that I think you have to go for it, but then I think the best thing to do is to transition the entire purpose of your deck away from Menagerie, into using Shepherd as your main source of draw. You can overdraw so much that you can gain a Feodum or two in a turn, Sacrifice them, and draw all of the Silvers, and then Raid multiple times to suddenly have 18 Silvers in your deck. Now your Feoda are worth an obscene number of points, and you can still trigger a Menagerie or two each turn if you managed to get enough unique cards in your deck, even with 18 Silvers or more. Now you just gain Feoda and Silver like crazy with Cobbler, Ironworks, and Raid, and emptying the Silver pile can take only 3 or 4 turns and you get an unreal number of points. Adam Hopkins managed to accomplish this, having 36 Silvers in his deck by the time the game was over; his Feoda were worth 12 points each.

I would open Sacrifice/Silver on this board, and then after that I’d spam Ironworks and Cobblers and other unique cards until I got my Magic Lamp to go off. I think I ended up doing better when I only trashed Coppers to my Sacrifice, keeping the Estates around. In most of my playtesting games I found myself spending all three of my wishes on Menageries, though it can certainly vary depending on your draws. It felt a little weird getting that third Menagerie, but it reminded me of this meme, which is coincidentally the name I gave this kingdom 😛

Finals set 4: Bank, Grand Market, Crown, Library, Den of Sin, Villa, Jack of All Trades, Scheme, Changeling, Monastery, Seaway, Inheritance, Platinum/Colony

This is the set I had slated for the final game of the tournament, you can do some pretty nutso stuff here. Everyone who played this board in the tournament went for the shiny distraction I put in — Monastery, Grand Market, and Den of Sin are the core components of that deck, but the Jack/Changeling synergy factors in there too. It’s a race for Grand Markets and then suddenly piles are empty, but there’s more…

I built this set around the synergy that Villa has with draw-to-X cards like Library and Jack. You can enter your buy phase, spend your treasures, get a Villa, then go back to your action phase and draw a bunch of cards. So the idea is to do this a lot, put Seaway on Villa at some point, and then at the end of it all, Crown a couple of Banks that are worth about $30. Scheme and Library give this deck a ton of consistency — in playtesting I could reliably empty Colonies by turn 9, sometimes on turn 8. The power level is absolutely insane, so much that cards like Grand Market, Den of Sin, and Monastery, which are normally powerhouses, are just not good enough because they don’t really fit in with what the deck is trying to do.

Inheritance and Changeling are there to make the mirror match a little less weird — I could usually empty Colonies by only using 5 Villas, but I didn’t really want Villa denial to be a thing, so I added in these two other methods of getting Villa’s on-gain effect so that a competent player could still make the magic happen if their opponent just went crazy trying to empty Villas.

On this board I would open Jack/Scheme and hope that I hit $5 over the next two turns (this speeds the deck up a lot, you can get an early Library and start going crazy immediately). Pick up Schemes on any sub-$5 hand and just start adding draw cards to the deck as fast as possible. You don’t even have to have a Bank at the start of the megaturn, you can buy it, then get a Villa, then draw it and it’s still insane. You can Seaway Villas mid-turn if you need to, and you can even enter your Night phase and gain stuff with Changelings, and get a Villa and go back to your turn if you want.

The name of this kingdom is “Don’t worry, you’ll probably have one or two Grand Markets by the time I empty the Colonies”

Anyways, I’m super-happy with the turnout for this tournament, it’s the biggest I’ve had and it looks like the hype is spreading — even though quite a few regulars had to cancel last-minute, the turnout was still this big. The next one could be even bigger!

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