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Making Luck Minisode 44: Advisor

In this episode, Adam and Jake discuss Advisor from the Guilds expansion.

No kingdom this week, since it's a minisode.

First of all (and it's remiss of me not to have said this already), massive congrats to Adam on the arrival of Parker. It's great news, and I really hope you're enjoying being a dad.

Anyway, back to business. I'm going out on a limb and saying that I think you're straight up over-valuing Advisor. Most of what you say makes sense, but at one point in the episode Jake said that if you're already drawing your deck then the Advisor is almost as good as a Lab, and this makes no sense to me. Clearly if you would have drawn your deck without the Advisor then the Advisor is (at best) no use at all, so presumably what you mean is that an Advisor increases the reliability with which you draw your deck almost as much as a Lab would.

Again, I disagree. To check this I put together a little simulation. To simplify things, I assume that your deck consists of 10 stop cards (payload plus maybe some junk) plus some number of Labs and Advisors (to help you draw them) and that you're at the start of a new shuffle. This seems like pretty much the most favourable set of assumptions for Advisor, since something like a Village / Smithy deck relies more heavily on drawing things in the right order, which is made more difficult with Advisor. I simulate 12,000 times for each number of Labs and Advisors and look at two things: the average number of stop cards you end up with in your hand, and the probability that you end up with all 10.

The best case for the Advisor is actually when you don't have any other deck control cards, since in this case a single Advisor draws you just as many stop cards as the Lab would. Of course as you pointed out this won't get you far if your stop cards are of highly uneven quality, but at least the Advisor draws you the same number of cards as the Lab. But the more Labs you have, the more an additional Lab is better than an additional Advisor. This is because you're relying on your Advisors to draw you more Labs and Advisors, but the first Lab or Advisor you find with each Advisor will just go in the discard pile.

According to my simulation, if your deck consists of stop cards plus enough Labs to overdraw slightly, then your chances of drawing your whole deck are improved only very slightly if at all by the addition of a single Advisor, and even three Advisors is barely as good as one additional Lab. In terms of the average number of stop cards you draw, the Advisor fares somewhat better, being worth up to two thirds as much as a Lab in the best cases, but of course if your stop cards are at all uneven in terms of importance then the Advisors are going to find the crappier ones. If you have a single critical stop card such as Mountebank that you want to play every turn then Advisor fares terribly against Lab in terms of reliability of getting your Mountebank in hand every turn.

I'll attempt to attach my sim results to this post. The top chart is the expected (average) number of stop cards drawn, and the bottom chart is the probability of drawing all 10. The number of Labs is across the top and the number of Advisors down the side. The margin of error on the probability of drawing your deck is around 1%.

And finally there's another disadvantage of Advisor that you didn't mention, which is that if you have only one or two cards left in your deck and discard pile combined then playing Advisor doesn't even increase your hand size. So again if you're trying to draw your deck with the help of Advisor then the last action you play to get your whole deck in your hand needs to be some other draw card. This means that your Advisors need to be helping you find other draw cards even though your opponent gets to pick one to dump each time. This factors into my simulation and I guess it's another reason why Advisor looks terrible against Lab in terms of its ability to help you draw your entire deck.

Uploaded files:
  • Advisor-versus-Lab.png

In the cold light of day, there are clearly other situations that are more favourable to Advisor than the deck full of Labs and stop cards I simulated above. One that you mentioned in the episode is a thin deck with lots of cantrip money, and then I agree an Advisor isn't so much worse than a Lab. Another case that I don't think you mentioned is a deck with lots of sifters. Cards like Cellar allow you to cycle through the junk and get to your good cards at the expense of reducing your hand size, whereas Advisor does the opposite by increasing your hand size but tending to fill it with the junk while putting the good cards in the discard pile. Hence the combination works quite well if you can play your sifters first to get Advisors in hand and payload into the discard, and then play the Advisors to draw your payload back into your hand (with a cantrip or something to get that last card).

Or so it seems to me anyway!

I did a re-listen of the episode to try and find the thing that you were talking about. Jake had said something like "when you're drawing your deck, Advisor is as good as Lab" and after talking about it, I think some softening language and/or context is in order there.

I'm not going to check the math on your simulations, I'll just assume you're right about that. With 10 stop cards in a deck, Advisor has a lot of trouble being good without some additional support, and this doesn't even take into account the fact that maybe those stop cards aren't equally good, which is a pretty big deal.

The spirit of that part of the conversation was that we're trying to get Advisor to be as close to Lab as possible, which involves mitigating its weaknesses -- obviously Advisor is going to be worse most of the time. The statement that was actually said assumes that you have some other support and I think was intended to be focusing on that. Or at least I think this is the case, but this was recorded a long time ago so maybe I'm wrong about that 😛

So yes what was actually said is a bit misleading. Hopefully this helps clear things up. Anyways, thanks for listening, and thanks for being critical. I actually do appreciate it.

Thanks. I only tend to post when I hear something I disagree with, so I'm not really being critical! I massively appreciate the time and effort you, Jake and WW put into helping people like me get better at the game, and I eagerly await every episode, so a huge thanks for your ongoing efforts and I really hope you still find the time now the rest of your life has become somewhat busier!

It was a minor quibble really but I just felt like doing the sim to see how adding Advisor to a deck that could already draw itself would affect reliability. Jake had implied it might be almost as good as Lab while I suspected it might even be a liability, but it turned out to be somewhere in between: adding an Advisor does usually help, and certainly if you get several then it helps substantially, but still noticeably less so than the same number of Labs.

Everything else you said made total sense, and actually apart from that one comment that I took issue with I take back the assertion that you were over-valuing Advisor more generally. Given it costs only $4 instead of $5 it's entitled to be significantly worse than Lab and still be worth getting sometimes. It makes sense to value it on a particular board based on how close you can get it to being like a Lab, and actually in the case of thin decks that draw themselves mostly with Peddler variants, Conspirator, Grand Market etc. the gap between Advisor and Lab is wafer thin, so everything you said about those decks was really helpful, as was the stuff about the difference in value between your best and worst cards.

I'm gonna step up and take some blame here. I think Jake's comment was inspired by something I'd said. (Well, I guess I shouldn't speak for him, but he mentioned my comment at least, and I did make it, etc.). And you're totally right, advisor is fairly marginal in the deck you're talking about, AND that deck fits the description given, so mea culpa. I still think Advisor is good in the deck I had in mind, but I did not describe such a deck so well. First of all, that deck has a bit less junk in it, for the most part, than 10 stop cards. But more importantly, I think, is that I'm imagining a deck with a higher proportion of cantrips in it. So much more like a deck you're talking about. Actually probably even more important is that you need to be overdrawing at least a tiny bit.

But yeah, Advisor is almost always going to be at least somewhat worse than lab once in your deck (there are edge-cases, but they're super rare), it's just a question of minimizing the difference.