Author Archives: Adam Horton

Dominion: Fall 2019 Tournament Summary

This weekend, on Saturday, September 21, 2019, I hosted my eleventh Dominion tournament in Cincinnati, OH.

Fall 2019 Tournament

Since I last wrote about my tournaments, several things have changed in the IRL Dominion Tournament world: RGG, the publisher, has decided to stop hosting a “world championship” tournament at GenCon, and it seems they are no longer interested in actively supporting other smaller Dominion tournaments, even by just providing promo cards to give out like they have in the past. These were the main reasons why I was holding 3-player tournaments, so it looks like my tournaments will consist of 2-player games, unless I decide to splash in a 3P tournament every once in a while for variety.

The other big thing that happened was my tenth Dominion tournament. I wrote a blog post about it and published it, but it has mysteriously disappeared from the blog and short of writing a completely new post, I don’t have another way to recover it [EDIT: I have recovered most of that blog post and it has been re-posted] — in any case, that tournament was held in January 2019 and between flu season and a huge snowstorm that came through, the tournament had a very low turnout. I even had to cut the tournament short after the Swiss rounds because of the weather.

Between all of these factors, I’ve decided to make a few changes in my IRL tournaments. The previously-mentioned shift to 2P tournaments will be one of them, but I also want to move away from a Winter/Summer cycle and towards a Fall/Spring cycle to prevent most weather-related issues from causing another “snowpocalypse.” This tournament was the first one in that new cycle.

I also have ambitions of running a larger tournament at GenCon, now that there is no “official” tournament that I’d be stepping on. If I can make it to GenCon in 2020 I definitely plan to do this, so once that gets closer, stay tuned for the details on that event. I’m hoping for a tournament with hundreds of people in it.

Enough of the intro, though. We had 18 people show up for the tournament, and from that field we crowned a winner: Ari Silverton. This was Ari’s first time at one of my tournaments and it’s always nice to see someone win who enjoys the game as much as he does — congratulations! Ari has a YouTube channel where he plays Dominion as well. Also, a shout-out goes to Jake, Marlene, and Jessica who also cashed in the tournament.

Ari, Marlene, Jessica, and Jake with their winnings

For the rest of this post I want to talk about the designed kingdoms used for the elimination rounds of this tournament. I’ll link the Google Sheet that has every kingdom used for your reference, but I’ll only go in-depth about the designed kingdoms here. I’ll post the kingdoms first, then my commentary down below in case you would like to play them yourself before reading what I have to say about them.

Overall, I had a great time at this tournament. Even though I didn’t have 30+ people like I have in the past, I feel like this one was very successful and we got to see some really talented players do their thing. Again I want to thank everyone who makes the trip to Cincinnati and the local people who consistently show up, it’s because of you that these tournaments continue to be successful.

Finals Set 1: Hermit, Diplomat, Treasure Trove, Caravan, Bridge, Hireling, Outpost, Rogue, Old Witch, Vassal, Sewers, Ferry

Finals Set 2: Patron, Tragic Hero, Library, Grand Market, Loan, Necromancer, Harbinger, Oasis, Ghost Ship, Journeyman, Capitalism, Museum

Finals Set 3: Baron, Crossroads, Watchtower, Hamlet, Forager, Talisman, Bandit Camp, Council Room, Treasurer, Fishing Village, Triumph, Canal

Finals Set 4: Faithful Hound, Pillage, Market, Shepherd, Courtier, Ironworks, Mill, Prince, Storeroom, Haven, City Gate, Silos


SPOILERS BELOW


SPOILERS BELOW


Finals Set 1: Hermit, Diplomat, Treasure Trove, Caravan, Bridge, Hireling, Outpost, Rogue, Old Witch, Vassal, Sewers, Ferry

The idea behind this kingdom was to have a really good deck you want to build that plays a lot of Bridges, but have a few strange ways to enable that deck. Regardless of what deck you’d like to build here, the opening part of the game revolves heavily around the synergy between Hermit and Sewers. It may not look like much, but with Sewers active and just one Hermit play, you can trash an Estate, two Coppers, and “buy” a Madman that turn by gaining a Hermit with your Hermit and trashing another Copper when the Hermit you played trashes itself for a Madman. This is a surprisingly fast way to get a very thin deck that can quickly add payload here as well, and no matter which build path you go for, I think this type of opening is very strong.

The first idea is to go straight for a Madman/Bridge build. You can gain Hermits back from the trash with Rogue if you just need to get more Madmen, but being contested on Bridges is a real concern, and this deck can be finicky and slow to actually build and play. I saw a couple of people go for a Madman-fueled Bridge megaturn and both of them ended up losing the game because their big turn just wasn’t enough to win the game.

Another path you can take is to use Diplomat as your village. The issue is that there are only a few ways to get actions from your Diplomats to start out with: you can play an Outpost and do everything cool on your Outpost turn (you have to forego all of the other Outpost-related synergies I put in here like Caravan and Hireling though), you can have only five or fewer cards in your entire deck, or you can rely on your opponent playing an attack on you. If any of this lines up and you have enough Diplomats and Bridges in your deck, you can have some pretty big turns, and though it may look scarier than just Madman/Bridge, I think this style of deck is likely to be the best one you can build here. If nothing else, you can just use Outpost to enable yourself, and Outpost is something you probably wanted anyways.

The last path is to build a deck that uses the duration draw resources and Treasure Trove to flood with Treasure and just buy Provinces the old fashioned way.

Finals Set 2: Patron, Tragic Hero, Library, Grand Market, Loan, Necromancer, Harbinger, Oasis, Ghost Ship, Journeyman, Capitalism, Museum

Capitalism is the only village here — well there’s Patron, but it really just serves to enable Capitalism. If you have Capitalism active, your Patrons are treasures, which means you can play them in your Buy phase without spending any Actions, and bank a bunch of villagers for future turns. You can do all kinds of cool things here if you have extra actions!

There are a bunch of smaller synergies here that are a big deal as well: Patron can be revealed by Loan and Journeyman, Tragic Hero can gain a lot of really good cards once you have Capitalism (hello, Grand Market!). And finally, you can actually trash your Estates using Zombie Mason if you either draw your deck first, then use Oasis to discard an Estate, then play a Zombie Mason. The problem with that is that it’s really hard to draw your deck here, but never fear, you can skip the part where you draw your deck if you just play a Harbinger instead. Oh yes, Harbinger is actually important here and it’s not just because of Museum. You’ll find yourself wanting to stay away from Treasures while you’re still trashing with Loan, and you don’t want too many Oases, and the Harbinger remains useful later on as a way to ensure that your Loan hits your last couple of Coppers after you buy Capitalism.

So I like to open Patron/Loan, and get a Library with my first $5 buy. I really want to get a Villager or two from those first couple of turns, they will be very important for getting this deck to function, because you get more Villagers for later if you have bigger turns earlier. From here, I want a single Necromancer and a bunch more Patrons. Maybe a second Library, some Oases and Harbingers, and at some point I want to make a quick transition away from using Library for draw and towards using Tragic Hero for draw, and around this time I want to get Capitalism — hopefully after I have 4 or more Coppers out of the deck. This decision point and how to set up for it is usually tricky and depends heavily on my draws. After a few Tragic Heroes, I transition to Journeyman as my main source of draw because of its synergy with Patron.

This deck is pretty fun to play if you can find all of the synergies. If you don’t, then you can be subject to Ghost Ship pain, which isn’t too much fun.

Finals Set 3: Baron, Crossroads, Watchtower, Hamlet, Forager, Talisman, Bandit Camp, Council Room, Treasurer, Fishing Village, Triumph, Canal

This set was designed by Wandering Winder, not myself. He did a bunch of playtesting with me for the other ones, but this one was his idea. The main focus is on Triumph because it has a billion great enablers here (Talisman with tons of buys, Canal, Bandit Camp, and even Watchtower; plus the ability to draw a bunch of cards), but there’s a decent amount of counterplay because it’s not totally crazy to deny Estates if you see your opponent commit too hard in that direction. Winning here usually involves building a deck with a lot of options (potential for gains and trashing) and paying close attention to what your opponent is doing.

I like a Baron/Forager opening here. You can use Fishing Village and Watchtower for a while as draw but soon enough you’ll want Council Rooms in the deck.

Finals Set 4: Faithful Hound, Pillage, Market, Shepherd, Courtier, Ironworks, Mill, Prince, Storeroom, Haven, City Gate, Silos; with Platinum and Colony

The “cool thing” to do here is build a deck that has a Princed Storeroom and a bunch of Faithful Hounds. If you can start your turn with a big hand size and use Silos on top of that, you’re able to pretty consistently enable Shepherd as your main source of draw and use Courtier and Pillage for some great payload options. You have City Gate and Haven to help you get your Prince and line it up with Storeroom somewhat reliably.

I prefer an Ironworks/Storeroom opening. I want to get a lot of Mills and Shepherds so a second Ironworks is usually a good idea. I also want to get Silos online as soon as possible so I can find my Ironworks more often. Get a few Havens and a Market or two to help hit $8, and then start getting lots of doggos while I’m waiting for my Prince to get online. Once the Prince is out with a Storeroom, you can add payload to the deck quickly because of Courtier (Pasture has three types which is a big deal here) and it’s usually a priority to play a Pillage every turn once you’re drawing enough.

There are some neat tricks you can do with Mill and Silos. The deck is somewhat reliable, but if you’re not quite drawing everything, you may want to use Mill to discard a bunch of Coppers, then trigger a shuffle so that your next starting hand is all Coppers. Not only is this a soft defense against Pillage, but if you have Silos, this actually improves your draw because once your Coppers are in your discard, you’re more likely to find your Shepherds and other green cards.

Be careful, though, because if you take too long to set this up, an opponent can potentially end the game on you with a competitive amount of points. Mills will usually empty super-fast, and Estates are worth two points each because of Pasture.

Dominion: Combos

I’ve given a lot of advice about how to build good decks in Dominion. The idea of early-game priorities being thinning and junking, then gainers, then draw, then payload, etc. applies to most games of Dominion and most decks you’ll want to build. But of course there are exceptions to just about everything in Dominion, and my advice has plenty of those.

This article is about a certain type of exception to these rules, combo decks. Sometimes the synergy between exactly two cards is so incredibly powerful that you throw the rest of the rules of Dominion out the window and now the entire game is focused around those two cards and the different ways you can support or counter them.

What makes a combo? Well it must be two cards and not more. Sure, combinations of cards or types of cards can be powerful, but there are enough cards in Dominion that it seems silly to me to write an article about something more specific than two cards, because you may never actually see it come up. The ones here are already rare enough. Past that, it just needs to be powerful enough to make you change the way you build your deck, so that it revolves around the combo.

I’ve compiled a list of every known combo deck, with links to articles about each one if you want more detail. They are divided into two tiers: “Tier 1 combos” are so powerful that unless there is a hard counter present (which sometimes doesn’t exist), you can expect to lose to the combo basically all of the time. “Tier 2 combos” can have a bit more counterplay, but are still powerful enough that the focus of the game is often completely around the combo deck anyways.

Tier 1 Combos:

Capital/Mandarin
Counting House/Night Watchman
Counting House/Travelling Fair
Hermit/Market Square
Hunting Grounds/Lurker

Tier 2 Combos:

Baths/Salt the Earth
Bridge/Native Village
Bridge/Royal Carriage
Guildhall/[Beggar/Delve/Masterpiece]

Guildhall combos: Beggar, Delve, and Masterpiece

Guildhall can enable some very fast, consistent “big money” decks that drain Provinces before other, more elaborate strategies have time to get enough points to win. Most treasure gainers have strong synergy with Guildhall, but three of them are powerful enough to be called combos.

Each of these decks is somewhat vulnerable to attacks, just like any other “money density” deck might be — if you’re being hit with a junking or discard attack, you can expect to be slowed down by a few turns, so consider investing in those attacks to fight a player who wants to go for these.

Guildhall/Masterpiece

Guildhall/Masterpiece can buy its fifth Province around turn 11, and its eighth Province around turn 15. The combo is very consistent in getting to these points in time, mostly because it uses Coffers as its main form of economy rather than relying on getting a good hand to hit Province.

You’ll want to open in a way that maximizes your chances of hitting $5 on turn 3 or 4 — Silver/Silver is pretty good for this, but you can often find some kingdom support to help you out here. Get a Guildhall on your first $5 hand and at that point, get a Masterpiece on every $4+ hand, spending all of your Coffers each time. Do this until you have at least two $7+ Masterpieces, and consider getting a third Masterpiece like this if you think you’ll need more than 5 Provinces to win the game. If you have $3 or less, just get a Treasure card.

After this point, just use your Coffers to buy a Province every turn, usually starting around turn 7 or 8. If you don’t have enough coffers to get a Province, just get another Masterpiece to stock back up.

Guildhall/Beggar

Guildhall/Beggar does not have the same consistency as the other two combos in this article. Because of the risk of colliding Beggars, you can get a bad draw, slowing you down a few turns. Without any collisions, you can expect to have your fifth Province around turn 12 and your eighth Province around turn 16.

You’ll want to open Beggar/Beggar and get a Guildhall on your first $5 hand. After that, you’ll immediately want to either spend your Coffers to buy a Province, or get another Beggar (or just a Treasure card if you don’t think you’ll play the Beggar before the game is over).

Guildhall/Delve

Similar to the Masterpiece combo, you’ll want to open in a way that maximizes your chances of hitting $5 on Turn 3 or 4. Frequently you’ll get two Silvers on your $4 hand and something else to help out on $3. Get a Guildhall on your first $5 hand.

After you have Guildhall, you’ll want to spend your turns up through turn 7 (the third reshuffle) just getting Delves and stockpiling Coffers — make sure to buy a Copper at the end of your Delves each turn, and if you have an odd amount of money, spend a Coffers to get an extra Delve. If you have $7 of more without spending Coffers, it’s Ok to get up to one Province before this shuffle if you think you’ll need more than 5 Provinces to win.

After this point, get a Province at every opportunity, spending as many Coffers as needed. You’ll usually have your fifth Province around turn 12, and your eighth Province around turn 16.

Video

A video of these “combo” decks can be found here. This article is a summary of that video, but note that there are a few discrepancies — when playtesting for this article, some optimizations were found that improve the play of these combos beyond what the video suggests.

Combo: Hunting Grounds/Lurker

Hunting Grounds and Lurker combine to form a strategy that is extremely fast to end the game, and scores enough points that it’s extremely difficult to compete with. The synergy between these cards is so strong that there is usually no counterplay or support available that actually makes a difference.

Combo At-A-Glance

The combo deck begins by opening Lurker/Lurker, regardless of your opening split. Every time you play a Lurker, trash a Hunting Grounds from the supply, gaining a Duchy, until the Hunting Grounds are empty (if the Duchies empty first, gain the Estates, of course). Buy Lurkers whenever you’re able, and trash Lurkers from the supply after the Hunting Grounds are gone.

This combo/rush ends the game reliably by turn 11 with 27-33 points. The game usually ends on a 3-pile with Hunting Grounds, Lurker, and Duchy; but sometimes you’ll empty Estates instead of Duchies if the Hunting Grounds are contested. It’s extremely difficult to compete with something that ends the game so quickly while scoring this many points, so whenever you see these two cards, you’ll be pretty safe just going for this combo deck and ignoring whatever else is going on.

Support

I’ve only found two cards that can actually support this combo:

Catacombs: On turns 3 and 4, your Lurker plays can go towards trashing a Catacombs and gaining more Lurkers instead of directly trashing Hunting Grounds. If your opening Lurkers don’t miss the shuffle and you’re uncontested, this can speed up the end of the game by 1-2 turns.

Stonemason: You can open with three Lurkers by using Stonemason’s overpay ability, which helps out a bit. Trashing Coppers with Stonemason can be nice, but don’t do this over buying another Lurker, and don’t attempt to gain Hunting Grounds from the trash in hopes of trashing it to a Stonemason.

While other combo decks have room for other kingdom cards to give some optimization, even extremely strong cards like Donate don’t tend to matter much when compared to Lurker/Hunting Grounds.

Mirror

When uncontested, the combo wins games because it ends the game extremely quickly, so that should be your focus. When mirrored, you are faced with a reality of this combo deck: it is hard-capped in the number of points it can score. Getting more points, particularly winning the “Duchy Split” is usually what decides these games.

“Duchy split” is in quotes, because the main way of scoring points is by trashing Hunting Grounds. The way to get more points is to trash more Hunting Grounds, plus buying up to 2 Estates after you have 4 Lurkers (provided you feel like you’re not sacrificing the Trashing-Hunting-Grounds-split to do so).

The other forms of interaction you care about in mirrors are Action-Victory cards. Nobles, Mill, and especially Distant Lands end up mattering a lot. Never leave these cards in the trash under any circumstances.

The presence of Pasture (Shepherd’s Heirloom) will cause you to prefer the 3 Estates over the Duchy when trashing a Hunting Grounds.

Counterplay

There are a few forms of counterplay to the combo, but let me be clear: they are just a drop in a bucket of what you’ll need to compete against the combo deck without going for it yourself.

Contesting Hunting Grounds: If you can get 3 or more Hunting Grounds before the combo player empties the Duchies, you can force them to aim towards emptying Estates instead. The combo player can easily see this coming and play around it — you usually don’t slow them down by doing this, but you can decrease the number of points they can score.

Attacks: they do pretty much nothing against Lurker/Hunting Grounds. Sure, cursing is probably better than not cursing against the combo, but don’t expect to get very much out of it.
The main exception to this is Enchantress. If you open with two Enchantresses and focus on having an Enchantress in play on most turns, you can expect to slow your opponent down by a turn or two, meaning that you’re looking at trying to get 4-5 Provinces by turn 12 while needing to play an Enchantress on most turns.

Combo: Bridge/Royal Carriage


When Bridge and Royal Carriage are in the kingdom, you should always consider the possibility of going for the “combo build”. With only these two cards, it’s possible to build a deck that empties Provinces around turn 12-15*. In some cases, you may be better served by going directly for a “combo build” rather than trying to build a more generally good deck that trashes or draws, and doesn’t build for a megaturn.

Combo At-A-Glance

The most important thing about this combo is to get six Royal Carriages as quickly as possible. You’ll usually open Bridge/Silver to achieve this, and put up to 2 more Silvers in the deck to help. On a 5/2 opening you’ll usually find a $5 card that offers some support, such as something that can gain Royal Carriages or Estate trashing to help you hit $5 more; but if that’s not the case you’ll prefer to open Royal Carriage/nothing instead of getting a Bridge. Your goal is to get 6 Royal Carriages as quickly as possible. Feel free to call Royal Carriage on Bridge to help you gain more of them. You’ll typically get your sixth Royal Carriage around turn 7-10*.

Once you have 6 Royal Carriages in your deck, you will inevitably have a turn where you can get all of the Provinces. Get all of your Carriages onto the Tavern mat as quickly as possible, and along the way you’ll want to pick up a second Bridge. It’s OK to get more Carriages if they’re available, but make sure not to call any until your megaturn. Beyond the second Bridge, you usually don’t want to buy more cards other than cantrips, sifters, and possibly a third Bridge. If you know you won’t shuffle before the end of the game, you can get some Victory cards as well.

Eventually you’ll find yourself with a Bridge in hand and at least 6 Carriages on your mat. Play the Bridge, replay it with all of your Carriages, and empty the Provinces.

*The turn benchmarks given here are best-case scenarios for the combo deck. It’s possible that you can have very bad draws, which can delay you by several turns, just from not hitting $5 enough.

Counterplay

It’s absolutely critical that the deck described above gets six Royal Carriages. Without six Carriages, the deck can’t threaten to win the game, so the focus of most counterplay and the measure of its success is preventing the combo player from getting enough Carriages.

Royal Carriage is a good card in just about any deck, so denying them to your opponent has its perks for you as well.The tough part is that the combo player can get 5-6 Carriages pretty quickly, so just outracing them usually doesn’t work well. We want to find ways to slow them down.

Fortunately, just about every attack in the game slows down the combo deck in a significant way. Discard attacks severely hurt their ability to hit $5 often, junking attacks are brutal, and even the weaker attacks like trashing attacks are still devastating when you manage to connect with a single Royal Carriage. In the presence of just about any attack that can be played early on, the combo deck needs to invest in building more in order to deal with them, and while the focus of the game usually still revolves around winning the Royal Carriage split, attacks shift the game’s focus away from the combo and toward other interactions in the kingdom.

Support

Most types of support will improve the combo deck when uncontested, but when Royal Carriages are being contested, especially in a mirror, a lot of the support you would use comes at the cost of getting more Carriages ASAP. When attacks are around, support (including the attacks) becomes a lot more important.

The strongest type of support for this combo deck are cards like Warehouse, which help you get your Carriages on the mat more quickly and increase your consistency with hitting $5. You’ll still want to open with a Silver but then get these cards over Silver later on. The next strongest form of support is trashing, especially those costing less than $5. Other sub-$5 non-terminals like Peddler, Caravan, and other cantrips can help a bit.

Gainers are usually a bit weaker, because you really want to be gaining Royal Carriages with them, but there are a few exceptions: Vampire, Alms, and Talisman are reasonable support, as well as things like Altar if you’re lucky enough to hit $6 early enough for it.

If you open with a 5/2, you’re looking for good trashing, gaining, and economy cards at those price points, as they are often better than just opening Royal Carriage/nothing and being sad about it.

Mirrors

In the presence of most attacks, you’ll want to go for them as mentioned before, and frequently this causes you to move away from the combo build. In either case, getting 6 Royal Carriages is usually game-decisive because you just can’t do anything when you only have access to four of them.

The interesting part about being mirrored is when the Royal Carriages are split 5 each. You still want to have a megaturn, but it’s unlikely that your megaturn will end the game — you usually end up buying 4 Provinces and 2 Duchies, and the game can come down to other VP you can buy on your other turns. If you’re lucky enough to find $4 in addition to your Bridge on your big turn and kick off before your opponent, you can get 5 Provinces and pretty much lock the game up.

Getting more than 3 Silvers in this case is great for increasing the chances at a 5-Province turn, and other sources of non-terminal +Buy or cost reduction works well for this situation as well. Aside from that, you would prefer to have your megaturn first so you can just go hard for green afterwards.

Bite-Sized Articles: the most powerful Dominion cards

While it’s not clear what exactly makes a Dominion card “good” or “powerful,” people do card power level ratings anyway. There are many valid and conflicting reasons to rate a card as good or bad, but some cards are consistently rated as very strong across all of these definitions. Knowing which cards are rated this highly can impact the way you look at kingdoms, as they either have very strong effects or are strong enough to include in a wide variety of decks; knowing what these cards and why there are powerful can be very helpful to you as a player.

So I’ve compiled a list of roughly the top 10% of all Dominion cards and, with some help, written a short blurb on why each of them is rated so highly. Below is a list of those cards, with links to the appropriate articles. If there is a more detailed (and good) resource on that card, the bite-sized article will link to that as well.

Ambassador

Cathedral

Chapel

City Quarter

Cultist

Dominate

Donate

Familiar

Ferry

Fishing Village

Goons

Governor

Grand Market

Highway

King’s Court

Lost Arts

Margrave

Masquerade

Minion

Mountebank

Overlord

Peasant

Page

Pathfinding

Rebuild

Recruiter

Sauna/Avanto

Scrying Pool

Seer

Silk Merchant

Star Chart

Torturer

Tournament

Vampire

Villa

Wharf

Witch

Bite-Sized: Villa

The Bite-Sized series of articles is meant to take the most powerful cards in Dominion and give a short explanation of what makes them powerful.

When you play Villa, it’s not the most impressive effect, it doesn’t draw any cards and only gives you $1. On the other hand, Villa has a unique effect in that it allows you to return to your action phase when gained; there are some synergies here that allow you to do some very powerful things.

The most common synergy with Villa’s on-gain ability is that you don’t have to worry so much about running out of actions as long as there are Villas in the pile and you can come up with $4 to get one; this is especially strong with draw cards that want the support of a village, as you can build much more aggressively, delaying your village buys until you actually need the actions, and since you usually immediately play the Villa, you don’t lose a buy and get $1 back right away, softening the blow. Villa loves cost-reducers when being used like this, because they further reduce the opportunity cost of gaining a Villa to keep your turn going.

Some more exotic tricks that Villa can enable would be synergy with draw-to-X cards, since you can play your treasures in the buy phase, buy a Villa, then play your draw-to-X card for lots of value. If you’re overdrawing a lot, you can draw your deck but keep extra draw cards, buy additional payload cards in that same buy phase, then draw and play them in the same turn. While Villas are still in the pile, you can use this to explode in growth very quickly, which means that emptying the Villa pile for denial purposes is often a consideration.

Bite-Sized: Tournament

The Bite-Sized series of articles is meant to take the most powerful cards in Dominion and give a short explanation of what makes them powerful.

At the start of the game, tournament is already quite strong. Cantrip +$1 has an economic impact similar to Silver, and as your deck improves, it gets better than that fairly quickly. Additionally, compared to a pure payload card like a silver, the cantrip nature is much better for deck control, letting you more easily start chaining cards together..

Obviously, the other text on the card is important, too. Note that turning off your opponent’s Tournaments by revealing a Province can be a very big deal – often even bigger than gaining Prizes. If they would draw 3 tournaments in their turn, then by having a province in hand, you’re denying them drawing 3 cards, plus 3 coins, and potentially more than that, as the lack of ability to draw also increases the chances that their turn stalls out.

The prizes are also strong. Generally, Trusty Steed, Princess, and Followers are the strongest, and one of them is almost always taken first. Which of them is best is board-dependent – usually, look for what the rest of the board is missing (village, +buy/payload for many-buys deck, discard attack). Taking other prizes – including duchy – is usually a consolation or an endgame play.

Because of the importance of Provinces on both these axes, getting to $8 faster is generally more important than normal.

Bite-Sized: Wharf

The Bite-Sized series of articles is meant to take the most powerful cards in Dominion and give a short explanation of what makes them powerful.

Over two turns, Wharf draws a lot of cards (four in total) and gives additional buys to take advantage of the increased hand size. This combination is strong in almost any deck, with or without the ability to play multiple Wharves in the same turn, because of its independent strength on top of the fact that the effect stacks very well.

Wharf decks take a couple of extra turns to draw a lot of cards; and while it might look like an overall weakness to have to wait until your next turn to draw the other two cards, this is where Wharf’s true power lies. The start of your turn is the best time to draw cards because that is when many decks are most vulnerable to stalling. The duration draw of Wharf is strong enough that you don’t even need to trash your starting cards to have a very consistent deck, even though trashing still improves these decks significantly. You can have a lot more non-drawing payload cards in your deck and not have to worry about stalling.

Bite-Sized: Witch

The Bite-Sized series of articles is meant to take the most powerful cards in Dominion and give a short explanation of what makes them powerful.

Witch is the first junker Dominion ever knew, coming from the base set, and to this day is one of the most powerful. The combination of giving out a Curse and being a halfway decent card to put into a deck is what makes Witch powerful.

Junking is a very strong effect in Dominion, strong enough that even if the Curses can be trashed, you still usually want to go for Witch along with the trashing just to slow your opponent down.