This past weekend I traveled to Ypsilanti, MI to attend U-Con, a tabletop gaming convention, and participate in the Dominion tournament there. I’ve been to this tournament many times before, winning it in 2015 and helping to organize it the last two years. This year I played in the tournament and was part of a field of 12 people; I won the tournament this year.
I had originally intended to do an interview with the winner but I thought that would be kind of awkward, so what I’ll do in this post is share the kingdoms I played that day and give my commentary on them.
The format of the tournament goes like this: there were 4 preliminary games of Dominion — 3 players in each game. Tournament points are given for placement in each game, 5/3/1 for 1st/2nd/3rd place and the 9 players with the highest tournament point scores after the preliminary games move on to the semifinals.
From there, the scores are discarded and 3 more games are played with the same scoring. The top 3 from the semifinals move on to a single finals game, which solely determines the placement for the top 3 players.
Players were allowed to stack their decks at the beginning of each game so they can have whatever opening they want. Past that, they must shuffle their decks normally; I use this rule in the tournaments I run as well and it was inspired by this tournament.
Let’s get to the kingdoms.
Set 2018-1: Wolf Den, Scouting Party, Squire, Castles, Hermit, Cemetery, Feodum, Necromancer, Rats, Shepherd/Pasture, Rogue, Knights
The Knightmare never ends here with Necromancer and Rogue, and I don’t think it’s possible to build a completely Knight-proof deck here, so whatever you do has to revolve around not only defending yourself well against Knights attacks at all time, but keeping close track of your opponents and make sure they aren’t getting away with too much. In the game I played, I felt like the Knight attack was important every single turn of the game.
I decided to open with a Hermit of course, and a Necromancer too. One opponent opened with a Knight so I prioritized getting a Feodum and started loading up on Squires and trying to “buy” Madmen while keeping a Hermit or two in the deck.
By the third shuffle I was the only one without a Knight, but one of my opponents played Knight, hitting the other Knight and my Feodum. This was a huge stroke of luck for me because now I was functionally the only one with a Knight (I was the only one with a Necromancer) and I had economy that I desperately needed. At this point I started hitting the Knights hard by buying a few of them and also getting more Necromancers.
I had the initiative on Knights at this point so I pressed it pretty hard. I think I was the only one who got any Madmen which also helped a lot. Soon enough there was plenty of juicy stuff in the trash so I picked up some Rogues to gain it: I went for Feodum at this point and ended up with 10 Feoda worth 5 points each to win it cleanly.
I could see this one playing very differently depending on what happens — I thought I would get a Cemetery at some point to thin some Coppers but that never ended up happening, I always felt like I had better things to do and I was making enough money that I could usually afford Scouting Parties — the Coppers didn’t feel like they hurt all that much.
Set 2018-2: Bandit Fort, Conquest, Beggar, Druid(Moon/Sea/Wind), Changeling, Tunnel, Jack, Scout, Noble Brigand, Embassy, Pooka, King’s Court
This one did not go well. I didn’t have any faith in a King’s Court deck here because there would always be too many stop cards (plus you have to line up two King’s Court, a Pooka, and a treasure to trash with basically no support (yes I know Druid/Moon’s Gift is there but I didn’t have any faith in it) and the slowest thinning ever), and I thought just going for Beggars and Duchies would be too good. I opened Jack/Beggar, hoping to turn the Silvers from Jack into Changelings and then Beggars.
Both opponents went for heavy Beggars along with me, so the game ended on Coppers, Beggars, and Changelings. One opponent found time for a King’s Court and managed to line up a Changeling with it to get a second — he Kings Courted two Beggars and won off of those two Provinces.
I want to say I had the worst possible draws imaginable. Perhaps the Jack was just a mistake and I should have gone straight for Beggar? Maybe just playing money would have been good and I should eat the negative points? Normally when things go this badly for me I have to question what I did, but this board was designed to have nothing be good on it.
I ended up with second place in this game and a lot of confusion.
Set 2018-3: Colony/Platinum, Mountain Pass, Dominate, Guardian, Market Square, Dungeon, Ghost Town, Messenger, Taxman, Cobbler, Journeyman, Legionary, Replace
Well you can do all of the things here. The trashing is a little slow but with both Colony and Dominate there should be plenty of time to make a really good deck. In a 3P game with only one stack of villages (Ghost Town) I knew the split would be important so I opened Replace and started spamming them on T2 (an opponent had Messengered a Guardian so I had $3 on turn 2). I ended up with 8 of the Ghost Towns and from that point I felt like I couldn’t lose the game.
Another player got an early Colony or two while I was building and so I had to be very careful about piles with Messenger around, but when he got a Province to trigger Mountain pass he was tempted by some cheap VP tokens, which was great for me. I had more time and I was never losing a longer game here. I dominated 3 times or so until I was comfortable ending the game on piles and that was it.
Taxman was great here, since it was the best way to trash Coppers and it also had utility with Gold->Platinum. I was the only player to get Taxman in my game.
Set 2018-4: Orchard, Lost Arts, Embargo, Vagrant, Diplomat, Cultist, Wine Merchant, Mint, Distant Lands, Fairgrounds, Hireling, Secret Cave
This is a perfectly fine kingdom, except that there’s Cultist in it. I was allowed to open with a Cultist so of course that’s what I did; one of my opponents did the same and the other decided to ignore Cultist. On turn 3 I got the luckiest draw ever, playing my Cultist and having 6 Coppers. I slapped Lost Arts on Cultist and never looked back, just shoving all sorts of different cards in the deck until I got my Magic Lamp off and had several sets of Orchard points. Nobody ever Embargoed Cultist which would have been really annoying for me, but I probably would have taken Curses with them to at least end up with 3 Cultists in the deck.
Eventually I found myself with enough draw to get a decent Mint and after that I just started getting Fairgrounds. The game ended on time and I had quite a lot of points. Of note is that I ended up with 3 Abandoned Mines, but no Ruined Villages, so I had 19 unique cards for my Fairgrounds. I also thought I had 3 Secret Caves but I only had two because I’m bad at counting.
Set 2018-A: Colony/Platinum, Wall, Triumph, Monastery, Settlers/Bustling Village, Chariot Race, Storeroom, Secret Passage, Artificer, Bandit, Counting House, Pillage, Goons
There was some talk of a Counting House/Storeroom deck being good here. I think that’s complete madness — for that deck to work you need to have a huge deck and so many copies of a lot of key cards, as well as a billion Secret Passages, and then the payload is what, a couple of Colonies?
I had faith in a different deck. One that spams Chariot Races for VP tokens, using Secret Passages to support by topdecking the same expensive card to reveal over and over. This deck also likes to have some villages and Goons too, since Monastery can somewhat effectively keep you thin, so I went with that build. I was not shy about putting a lot of Settlers, Chariot Races, and Secret Passages in the deck, but I only managed to get one Bustling village so the Goons presence was less than I had originally expected.
I ended the game with almost 50 VP tokens and only losing 10 points to my Wall.
Set 2018-B: Colony/Platinum, Triumphal Arch, Bonfire, Gladiator/Fortune, Cemetery, Conclave, Gardens, Jack, Militia, Horn of Plenty, Mandarin, Tragic Hero, Raider
So there’s a Mandarin/Horn trick you can do here, and you may even be able to turn it up higher by using Fortune, but it’s hard-countered by Militia so I didn’t go for it.
Without Colony I would be very tempted by a slower deck that involves Jacks, Horns, and Gardens, but I figured that Colonies would just be too many points so I went for a different build.
I went for Jack and Bonfire to get pretty thin, then I wanted to set up a big turn with a Ghost out where I transition from a few Silvers to a some bigger treasures and a few Tragic Heroes in the deck. This build was pretty fast (none of my opponents opened with a Jack which seemed very strange to me) and I ended up with 6 Colonies for a somewhat clean win here.
Set 2018-C: Labyrinth, Ritual, Poorhouse, Changeling, Enchantress, Scheme, Transmogrify, Devil’s Workshop, Pillage, Farmland, Prince, Peddler
This is a cool board with a lot of tricks that I like. With two wins in the semifinals before this I was going last this game, so after my T1 Transmogrify opening I saw some Enchantress buys from my opponents and I just couldn’t stomach putting another action card into my deck that wasn’t going to do anything for me, so I got a Silver.
That “worked out” for me because one opponent drew both Transmogrify and Enchantress on T3 and managed to get an Enchantress in play every turn for a very very long time. It was a huge setback for me since I just had to pick up more copies of the actions I wanted to play before I could do anything at all while he was building a better deck.
It felt bad and I was behind a few turns, but I managed to pull out a close second place here. I Ritualed a few Golds and Transmogrified a few Peddlers into Provinces and I’d like to think that it would have been a much different game if I was either not last player or my opponent hadn’t gotten that amazing T3 draw. But I had my fair share of luck in the tournament too so I don’t complain too much.
Set 2018-F: Colony/Platinum, Shelters, Ritual, Summon, Raze(BANE), Watchtower, Dismantle, Exorcist, Necromancer, Procession, Young Witch, Band of Misfits, Cobbler, Artisan, Prince
Procession madness for anyone who can get control of their deck here. I had earned the right to go first in this game and man, if you let me Summon a Young Witch as first player I’m not gonna turn that down. I feel like a junking advantage early is such a huge deal because it makes it much harder for your opponents to get good coverage, even though there are great defensive tools here in Watchtower and Raze. I spammed Razes and trashed them aggressively just so I could play my Young Witch as much as possible. I ended up taking zero Curses until the last turn of the game (I bought a Curse to end the game on piles).
From this point I couldn’t really lose — both opponents were going to have good decks but they had several turns of cleanup to do before they could do all that much, meanwhile I was going through Procession chains and gaining ALL of the cards while continuing to pummel them with Curses. Eventually when the Curses were low I was able to use my deck to 3-pile and grab a few Duchies for the win.
There was a huge first player advantage that I capitalized on to win this game, but hey I earned it by having the best score in the semifinals so I don’t feel that bad. I imagine I would feel differently if I was one of my opponents.
The best play of this game, though, was made by one of my opponents. At one point there were a few Bands of Misfits and Necromancers in the trash. He played a Band of Misfits as a Necromancer as a Band of Misfits as a Necromancer as a Band of Misfits as a Necromancer as a Band of Misfits as a Necromancer as a Necromancer as a Necromancer as, umm, I don’t remember after that but does it really matter? Epic.
So that’s it for the kingdoms. Obviously it felt good to win the tournament and it was also nice to visit people in the area I knew from the local Dominion scene. I qualified for the finals of the GenCon tournament next year with this win, and hopefully I’ll be able to make it. I’d consider playing in that tournament again next year but with the baby I’m not positive that will happen.
Well that’s all I’ve got for now.