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Episode 29: Stonemason

Sorry about the audio quality. I goofed and I was recording from the wrong microphone this week 🙁

In this episode, Adam and Jake discuss Stonemason from Guilds.

Kingdom at the end: Monastery, Stonemason, Bridge, Ironworks, Jack of All Trades, Ranger, Shepherd, City, Groundskeeper, Mint, Salt the Earth

I'm a bit higher on the play effect than you are (for gaining stuff, not for thinning - I'm agreed with you there). Or maybe a little lower on the overpay-y bit. But basically, the play thing is really hopping good, in the right scenario (i.e. you're overdrawing your deck). I guess overdraw isn't sufficient, you also need to have stuff cheaper than the stuff you have that's actually good. I've also definitely trashed Provinces before, usually in a case where you have a gain cascade - gain 2 golds, gain 4 5ers, profit dramatically. It's also cute when you can Stonemason expensive card->slightly cheaper card and a stonemason, draw those, stonemason the slightly cheaper card->slightly cheaper still card and another stonemason, etc. It lets you take absurd amounts of deck control/overdraw into emptying piles from a long long ways away. But that's pretty edge-casey. My bigger point is that it gains a lot of payload in the right situation, which is incredibly powerful.

 

 

As for the kingdom at the end, I think you might be falling into the classic city trap. What are you doing if I go Jack and money (maybe monastery is good there? not sure), and then if/when it becomes clear that you're going for your big city/bridge deck, I start salting the earth? I'm not going to help you empty the cities (or any pile), which means it's going to be really hard for you to get your draw up and running. Once you do get your draw, the idea is to have salted the provinces down low enough that there aren't enough 'natural' points left to go for provincing out and winning. So you have two options then - as you suggest, you might be able to Groundskeeper enough stuff to score a million points and win; the alternative is to just bridge up a billion things and win that way. Either way, you have to spend probably a turn past the City emptying in getting more payload, and only then are you winning. There's certainly going to be enough points, given time, to overcome whatever provinces the Money player has, so really the only question is how much time there is. And I guess I'm saying, I don't think the City deck is as fast as you seem to, because gaining all those cities is going to take a long time.

So certainly if I know you're committing to playing the deck you describe, I should be able to win by doing this. (Actually, if I'm entirely sure you're committed to it, going for Ranger instead of Jack might even be a touch better, but it's otherwise so bad to be moot). It's a little less clear in a real game, though, because I can't start Salting quite as early - given that you're opening Jack/Monastery, if I go too hard for salting too soon, you just pivot into a money deck where you've not wasted time on Salting, and can build your money (treasure-based?) deck a little more than me, and more or less just have a better version of what I'm doing. The question becomes how fast it's safe for me to start salting. But I think it's still fairly early, since I don't have to continue salting if you pivot towards that, which means there isn't a ton of commitment I have to make; certainly by the first Stonemason overpay, I think you trying to contest 'a better money deck' is out the window, but even before that... I don't know.

The other things that make it tricky are the possibility for you to go for 1-4 Ranger, which might get you enough draw to be running without necessarily having to pile something out (and the buys are nice-ish with Bridges, especially if you have Groundskeepers). I'm still not convinced there, because that's still an awful lot of components to get. Alternatively, at some point you may be able to focus down the Stonemasons just to speed a pile empty by a little bit. I mean, that is a good bit of essentially just junk to add, which makes me look at it a bit cross-eyed, but maybe it speeds you up a turn, and maybe that turn is enough.

 

So I lean toward money, but it's pretty darn interesting.

Quote from WanderingWinder on June 20, 2018, 8:38 AM

I'm a bit higher on the play effect than you are (for gaining stuff, not for thinning - I'm agreed with you there). Or maybe a little lower on the overpay-y bit. But basically, the play thing is really hopping good, in the right scenario (i.e. you're overdrawing your deck). I guess overdraw isn't sufficient, you also need to have stuff cheaper than the stuff you have that's actually good. I've also definitely trashed Provinces before, usually in a case where you have a gain cascade - gain 2 golds, gain 4 5ers, profit dramatically. It's also cute when you can Stonemason expensive card->slightly cheaper card and a stonemason, draw those, stonemason the slightly cheaper card->slightly cheaper still card and another stonemason, etc. It lets you take absurd amounts of deck control/overdraw into emptying piles from a long long ways away. But that's pretty edge-casey. My bigger point is that it gains a lot of payload in the right situation, which is incredibly powerful.

Yeah I thought about including the trick where you gain a Stonemason off of a Stonemason play for a bunch of gains. It just seemed so narrow though, especially when the point was being made that when you can draw and play the things you gain off a Stonemason play it gets much better. I don't exactly remember but I feel like I've pulled this trick off in a game before.

As for trashing a Province. I've done it a time or two but I've never done it and then not regretted it. If you think it's been good I'm curious to see the circumstance. My thinking has been that if you are so pinched on gains where you need to do something like this, then each Province you have is potentially too valuable to put in the trash.

As for the kingdom at the end, I think you might be falling into the classic city trap. What are you doing if I go Jack and money (maybe monastery is good there? not sure), and then if/when it becomes clear that you're going for your big city/bridge deck, I start salting the earth?

I originally thought this wasn't going to work, I've lost so many times to City/Bridge where I've underestimated it. On the other hand, it seems like you're actually leaning towards this so now I really want to try it out.

In single Province games I often find myself using Stonemason to trash Gold (or other 6-cost) into two Duchies in the endgame where I'm not going to be shuffling again. Even if you have $8 it's often better to trash the Gold for two Duchies and buy a third one (for 9 VP total) rather than buy a Province.

Quote from Adam Horton on June 20, 2018, 8:46 AM
Quote from WanderingWinder on June 20, 2018, 8:38 AM

I'm a bit higher on the play effect than you are (for gaining stuff, not for thinning - I'm agreed with you there). Or maybe a little lower on the overpay-y bit. But basically, the play thing is really hopping good, in the right scenario (i.e. you're overdrawing your deck). I guess overdraw isn't sufficient, you also need to have stuff cheaper than the stuff you have that's actually good. I've also definitely trashed Provinces before, usually in a case where you have a gain cascade - gain 2 golds, gain 4 5ers, profit dramatically. It's also cute when you can Stonemason expensive card->slightly cheaper card and a stonemason, draw those, stonemason the slightly cheaper card->slightly cheaper still card and another stonemason, etc. It lets you take absurd amounts of deck control/overdraw into emptying piles from a long long ways away. But that's pretty edge-casey. My bigger point is that it gains a lot of payload in the right situation, which is incredibly powerful.

Yeah I thought about including the trick where you gain a Stonemason off of a Stonemason play for a bunch of gains. It just seemed so narrow though, especially when the point was being made that when you can draw and play the things you gain off a Stonemason play it gets much better. I don't exactly remember but I feel like I've pulled this trick off in a game before.

As for trashing a Province. I've done it a time or two but I've never done it and then not regretted it. If you think it's been good I'm curious to see the circumstance. My thinking has been that if you are so pinched on gains where you need to do something like this, then each Province you have is potentially too valuable to put in the trash.

As for the kingdom at the end, I think you might be falling into the classic city trap. What are you doing if I go Jack and money (maybe monastery is good there? not sure), and then if/when it becomes clear that you're going for your big city/bridge deck, I start salting the earth?

I originally thought this wasn't going to work, I've lost so many times to City/Bridge where I've underestimated it. On the other hand, it seems like you're actually leaning towards this so now I really want to try it out.

Re:Trashing the province:

Almost every time I've done this and it was good, it was because this was a calculated forced win. Usually in those cases, it was a very-likely-win to not trash the province as well, so it wouldn't matter much, but every now and then, it's what you need to do to get the piles emptied just right, and foregoing it would give your opponent a chance for a similar and/or big turn. It could hypothetically be good otherwise, as the components you get give you economic power to gain more points back on the turn (let's say you're getting bridges), but in this case, it's extremely rare in practice to have the province anyway (why didn't you just build more last turn instead?). So it can come up outside of forced wins, but it almost never does - I think I had one game where it made sense to think about it like a turn in advance or something, but it ended up not actually happening anyway.

 

The kingdom at the end is something that I think is hard to know that much without really testing - it's actually very highly interactive (up to a point anyway), because it's so much about how aggressively you can start firing off those Salt buys. If I start turn 3, for instance, I think there's no way you can have your draw up in time. On the other hand, starting turn 3 seems like it's premature. Turn 5ish is a much more interesting question. And I'm also not sure whether this deck wants 1 jack or 2, or whether it wants monastery (and how that would factor in to the number of jacks discussion). Depending on how hard the opponent is going for City deck, as few as 1 Province seems like it could be enough.

I was also going to say, maybe a Big Money deck is good here.  The Bridge megaturn deck is exactly the kind of deck that gets beaten by Salt the Earth.

I thought that Jack/Monastery would have great synergy, just like Jack/Bonfire, but I just tried a quick sim, and it seems double-Jack beats Jack/Monastery about 60% of the time.  I am not convinced that this is true in real life, but now I'm doubting the Jack/Monastery thing.

I've trashed Provinces before with Stonemason to gain two duchies.  This is great with Groundskeeper.  Stonemason/Groundskeeper have pretty great synergy.  I think this is a possible "third" strategy on this board.  It would look pretty similar to the bridge thing, but maybe you only get one or two bridges, and use those to get lots of Groundskeepers and Shepherds.  Once you have enough shepherds & groundskeepers, you probably stonemason silvers into estates.

One thing you said which I don't agree with, is that you might get Mint?  I don't think Mint is happening.  Monastery will already have thinned most of your copper.

Quote from trivialknot on June 20, 2018, 11:44 AM

I was also going to say, maybe a Big Money deck is good here.  The Bridge megaturn deck is exactly the kind of deck that gets beaten by Salt the Earth.

I thought that Jack/Monastery would have great synergy, just like Jack/Bonfire, but I just tried a quick sim, and it seems double-Jack beats Jack/Monastery about 60% of the time.  I am not convinced that this is true in real life, but now I'm doubting the Jack/Monastery thing.

I've trashed Provinces before with Stonemason to gain two duchies.  This is great with Groundskeeper.  Stonemason/Groundskeeper have pretty great synergy.  I think this is a possible "third" strategy on this board.  It would look pretty similar to the bridge thing, but maybe you only get one or two bridges, and use those to get lots of Groundskeepers and Shepherds.  Once you have enough shepherds & groundskeepers, you probably stonemason silvers into estates.

One thing you said which I don't agree with, is that you might get Mint?  I don't think Mint is happening.  Monastery will already have thinned most of your copper.

I would expect Jack/Monastery to be close to double Jack, so 60/40 wouldn't shock me too much. Having said that, I doubt whatever simulator you used plays the cards as best as possible - you want to make sure not to trash the monastery for a while, trash coppers with it over estates, and eventually to go ahead and trash the monastery, and any of those I could see it not handling right. It's hard to know how much difference that will make, though.

 

Agree on the mint thing - if you're opening Monastery, Mint won't happen unless you wake up with 5 coppers on turn 3 or 4 (though if you happen to do that, it's got to be very good for you?)

 

I don't understand how the Shepherd/Groundskeeper deck is supposed to work. Mostly, it needs money to get to the Groundskeepers (and whatever cities you're getting though I'm guessing there aren't too many of those). But it also needs a high density of green cards for the Shepherds to work? I'm not really understanding how that balance works. Are you getting a Jack? If so, are you trashing your estates? If so, how are you drawing with those Shepherds? If not, how reliable is this thing really? Maybe there is something there - it certainly seems enticing - but I'm not sure how these things come together. The other point about that deck is that I don't know how it's ending the game. I guess it's piling out at some moment? Can it effectively compete against the bridge deck in that case? My guess is no. In general it seems to take a long time to effectively get that set up, which means that unless you're scoring a TON of points (maybe you are), you could have problems. Or maybe you can just keep greening for a while thanks to the shepherds? Certainly seems fun to play around with, but I would not feel confident I could play such a deck well.

I tried playing against a double-jack bot, and I think the City/Bridge thing is pretty good, and Shepherd is not.  You definitely get groundskeepers, and stonemasoning silver to estates is a thing, but you're doing it too late to use the green for draw with Shepherd.  I think this reliably beats the bot.

Of course, the bot doesn't play with Salt, or even try to empty piles with stonemason.

Quote from trivialknot on June 20, 2018, 12:42 PM

I tried playing against a double-jack bot, and I think the City/Bridge thing is pretty good, and Shepherd is not.  You definitely get groundskeepers, and stonemasoning silver to estates is a thing, but you're doing it too late to use the green for draw with Shepherd.  I think this reliably beats the bot.

Of course, the bot doesn't play with Salt, or even try to empty piles with stonemason.

This is good to know, and I find it interesting that the Shepherd deck isn't coming together at all - not the most shocking thing, but slightly disappointing nonetheless.

 

Unfortunately, this is the kind of game which seems super interactive (even without directly interactive cards), which means that playing against the bots probably won't tell us much. It's very unsurprising to me that you can build city/bridge to win against someone who isn't salting at all. Similarly, against someone who is not paying attention to an opponent, you could probably start salting at maybe even turn 1, end the game around turn 10 with a win. But obviously that wouldn't be good in a real game!

 

I'd be interested to know how fast you can get to the stage where your City/Bridge deck is really doing its thing - I guess this is more or less when you can run a pile out.

I watched a few of the games with this set--not all of them, but a few.  I did notice a few differences in how you played vs how I imagined it.  I don't expect you to go back, but I think the little differences can be interesting.  As the city/bridge player, I got a Bridge much earlier, whereas Adam prioritized Ranger.  I think at least one Bridge is good, because while Ranger may help you cycle to the best cards in your deck, Bridge *is* the best card in your deck, because of that sweet Stonemason/Bridge synergy.

And for the salt player, I imagined a strategy that was closer to double-jack, with 3-4 provinces.  Wandering Winder was salting much more heavily, only getting 1-2 provinces.  This has the advantage that you don't need to commit to salt so early, before knowing what your opponent is doing.  And though it may give the bridge player more time, they also need to pick up Groundskeepers to make up the difference.

But I don't know if these are better, or if they make any difference.

Quote from trivialknot on June 27, 2018, 1:47 PM

I watched a few of the games with this set--not all of them, but a few.  I did notice a few differences in how you played vs how I imagined it.  I don't expect you to go back, but I think the little differences can be interesting.  As the city/bridge player, I got a Bridge much earlier, whereas Adam prioritized Ranger.  I think at least one Bridge is good, because while Ranger may help you cycle to the best cards in your deck, Bridge *is* the best card in your deck, because of that sweet Stonemason/Bridge synergy.

And for the salt player, I imagined a strategy that was closer to double-jack, with 3-4 provinces.  Wandering Winder was salting much more heavily, only getting 1-2 provinces.  This has the advantage that you don't need to commit to salt so early, before knowing what your opponent is doing.  And though it may give the bridge player more time, they also need to pick up Groundskeepers to make up the difference.

But I don't know if these are better, or if they make any difference.

Adam can probably speak better to the importance of ranger than me, but I think it comes down to, yes, Bridge is a better card to have in play, but your real goal is to be able to play lots of those at once (or to look at it another way, to draw your deck), for which Ranger actually speeds you up.

 

From the Salt side, it's all about ending the game before the City player has everything together to draw everything. The way City player has to build their deck, by the time they are emptying City pile, they probably have enough payload to win the next turn. Even if they don't, though, then it's only going to take 1 more turn of building up payload to get there. And so the reason the Salt player doesn't want to build to get 3 or 4 provinces or something is that it will take more than one turn of building to improve your deck enough to do that. Really, all you need to do to win as the salt player is to empty the provinces before the opponent has a turn with activated cities. Well, except the really tricky thing is that you also need to make sure that your opponent can't just play the same way as you and buy provinces better. But the reason to build more in the Jack deck is entirely about worrying about the plunge-for-points-quickly mirror, and not at all about having enough points against a player who will eventually have explosive turns. The extra points there are virtually worthless (in fact, it might even be argued that at some point, Salting is better than getting a province, because more provinces increases the chance you can't empty a province. The difference has to be tiny though).

As for Ranger first vs. Bridge first, I have a couple of reasons for that.

First, I know you didn't specifically ask about this but Ranger is a very important component for the City/Bridge deck. Once you have three or four Cities in the deck, without Ranger, it takes forever to empty the rest of them. So getting Ranger online is a priority, and the earlier you can do it, the earlier you can have some bigger turns.

Bigger turns are useful for playing multiple Bridges like WW mentioned, but also getting to trash lots of cards with your Monastery, which is important slightly earlier than aiming to play 2 or more Bridges in a turn.

Second, I found that with the two-Monastery build, I wasn't hitting $5 on those early Bridge turns too often and I was just wishing I had flipped my Ranger token, so that's why I preferred to pick up the Ranger first. At least when I play that I have a benefit for the future. With no Cities in the deck, the Bridge is only good if you happen to hit $5 on that turn, but if you're having trouble hitting $5 for the first time, an activated Ranger will pretty much always get you there, and a lot of the time you'll hit $7 which will get you two Cities.

Is it right? Certainly it doesn't work out better for you for all possible draws, but my gut says that's the right play so that's why I made it.