Category Archives: Dominion

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.

Bite-Sized: Vampire

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.

Vampire’s strength comes from the fact that it does several different things for you. In many decks you build, you’ll be able to make use of at least one or two of Vampire’s three capabilities: gaining, attacking, and trashing.

The ability to gain a $5-cost card without spending an action is not common, but is very powerful. The combination of this plus the fact that Bat trashes cards, push you towards gaining a Vampire the first time you hit $5 in a lot of cases. Be advised, though, that Vampire/Bat’s gaining and trashing together make it difficult to increase the size of your deck over time.

Bat’s trashing is fairly slow to get online, you have to hit $5, then play your Vampire, then play your Bat. In addition, without any draw it can be difficult to line your Bat up with things you want to trash by that point, making the trashing part one of the weaker abilities of the Vampire/Bat duo, but still nice to have in most situations. Similarly, the hexing attack will sometimes not have a huge impact on your opponent, but is almost always nice to have in addition to the other things Vampire is doing for you, mostly gaining $5-cost cards.

Bite-Sized: Rebuild

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.

Rebuild is one of the less popular cards in the game, in part because it’s so powerful on its own. Rebuild is powerful because can score a respectable amount of points and then end the game quickly while taking away opportunities for other decks to catch up. Most synergies with Rebuild revolve around cards that help you play more Rebuilds. Most other types of support don’t end up being helpful, and Rebuild tends to not fit into decks with other game plans very well.

When uncontested, Rebuild has the potential to end the game extremely quickly. The best plan for this deck is often to trash Provinces and regain Provinces, just to empty the pile as quickly as possible, only turning for more points if necessary.
When both players pursue a Rebuild-focused strategy, things change a lot. Winning the Duchy split is usually game-decisive, so you usually name Duchy with your Rebuild unless Duchy is the only target in your deck. Getting caught with an Estate in your deck when the Duchies are gone is a huge negative. For more detail on Rebuild mirrors, check out this article.

Bite-Sized: Torturer

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.

Torturer is one of the only discard attacks that stacks with multiple plays, meaning that you can force your opponent to either take a lot of Curses or discard all the way down to zero cards in hand if you can play enough Torturers in a turn. For this reason, Torturer is the focal point of most kingdoms where it appears with a village.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t always discard to Torturer — if you give up chances to play your own Torturer, your deck may stay clear of Curses but you won’t win. Most games like this revolve around just playing as many Torturers as possible until one player has been beaten into submission. Only strong trashing can prevent this kind of scenario, because that type of deck can power through the Curses until they are gone, rendering Torturer’s attack mostly inert.

Bite-Sized: Seer

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.

The ability to get the full package of draw (that is, increasing your handsize while maintaining your ability to play more action cards) from a single card is very powerful, and any card which allows it without having to jump through too many hoops deserves significant consideration.

Seer gives you this ability, with the only stipulation that the cards need to cost between 2 and 4. In general, if you are drawing less than one extra card off Seer, it’s mediocre; at around 1 card, it’s pretty decent. But it’s when you start getting multiple extra cards from a single Seer that it starts to get particularly powerful. Will you get to that point? That depends a lot on how you build your deck – how well can you get rid of your coppers? Are you getting junked? Do you want cards that cost 2-4, or does most of your ideal deck cost 5+? Of particular note is that, barring cost-reduction, Seer doesn’t cost 2-4, meaning that you can’t just build a stack of only Seers and have everything draw beautifully. Overall, though, the range is really wide on how good it will be, and you need to look at every case on its own merits; thankfully, this is not so hard to do, so long as you roughly know your plan and your deck’s composition.

One note about the action phase when playing multiple Seers – try to give each Seer the maximum possible search space to hit draw-able cards; this is done by not having multiple wrong-costed cards on top of your deck when you play it, playing other draw cards (most often cantrips) in between Seers when necessary.

Bite-Sized: Recruiter

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.

Recruiter is a very powerful thinner and a very powerful village. It lets you trash a targeted card from a fairly wide range – one more than the number of cards in your hand when you played it. In most cases, it’s effectively nonterminal, as the villagers usually more than pay for the action cost of the Recruiter itself. It does not actually increase your handsize, since you have to trash a card, but being handsize-neutral is already better than almost all other trashers. If you’re willing to feed it a bit you can use it as a village extraordinaire, sometimes even powering all the remaining terminals in your deck. It’s almost always worth getting one on an early $5 hand, and often it’s worth getting a second. Do note, though, that there are diminishing returns, as can be the case with many trashers.

Bite-Sized: Silk Merchant

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.

Silk Merchant provides a little bit of everything you want at the start of the game. It increases your payload with the on-gain coffer (which is really, really good at hitting early price points. Opening SM and silver, you’re likely to be able to hit 5 twice, or up to 7 once, on turns 3-4). It increases your deck control with the draw, and the Villager. The villagers it gives helps you pick them up without much fear, which you’d normally otherwise have with a terminal, even though it’s also a drawing card. Extra buys are also something you want to pick up fairly often, and on Silk Merchant, you’re getting them on a card which already otherwise furthers your game plan, making the cost of getting that +buy quite small.

Having said this, you can’t usually build a deck just from these – they are terminal draw, and if you spam these and only these, you don’t end up with much of a deck at all – you eventually won’t have enough villagers to play them all, and you don’t have much lasting payload. So you want to use the card more as a role player, combining with things like villages and economy in order to maximize your deck’s effectiveness.


The on-trash effect is also a nice bonus and is usually quite strong wherever there’s something that gives you benefit for trashing a card (especially one which cares about the card’s cost).

Bite-Sized: Sauna/Avanto

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.

The split pile of Sauna and Avanto can provide three different deck control functions that are valuable in most games of Dominion: thinning, draw, and a village. In spite of the fact that it’s mediocre at providing each one of these effects individually, the fact that you can get all three of them makes Sauna/Avanto worth going for in many games, especially if it’s the only source or at least one of those effects.

If you’re using Sauna/Avanto for trashing, you usually want to go for other sources of trashing first, unless those sources are prohibitively expensive. In the absence of other reasonable trashers, you’ll either want to open Sauna/Silver and hope for collision soon, or consider skipping trashing that game.

If you want to draw cards with Sauna/Avanto, you’ll want to make sure you are in a situation to get lots of Avantos. Draw is what this pile is best at, so you’ll be in good shape if you build a deck to be ready for the Avantos when they show up. The main exception to this is when Sauna is the only village.

If you want a village out of the pile, Sauna is pretty unreliable and inefficient at getting you there. You have to line up three cards to get that effect, and get lots of copies of both Sauna and Avanto. On top of this, you won’t get all of the possible actions every turn. As a supplemental source of one or two extra actions each turn, or to support Avanto as draw, this is pretty good, but as the only village for supporting other terminals, Sauna usually doesn’t cut it by itself.

Bite-Sized: Star Chart

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.

Star Chart’s effect looks innocent at first glance, but the consistency it provides is extremely valuable in the first few turns of the game, to the point where it’s difficult to imagine situations where it’s not worth it to get Star Chart within that time frame. Along with that, it continues to be valuable throughout the entire game.

The most common situation for Star Chart is to open with it, ensuring that you see your other opening buy on turn 3. This makes opening with duration and reserve cards much better, and shores up the chance that a critical card misses the shuffle, which is frequently more valuable than buying another card in the opening. There are a few exceptions to this, the most notable of them being: a 5/2 or 2/5 opening, or maybe if hitting $5 on both of turns 3 and 4 is appealing. Even in these cases, you are likely to want to pick up Star Chart soon.

Given that you have this extra piece of consistency from early on, you can build your deck more aggressively. The need to overdraw just for consistency’s sake is much less, and generally you can prioritize payload a little higher with Star Chart around.