Level 10- Oscar [The Grouch] Is Your Friend

Hopefully, you have figured out that in this article I am going to talk about the Trash and how effective it really is. This is an important concept in Dominion, and to a newer player it can very counter intuitive. “Why would I want to get rid of my own precious cards?” It is a tricky question to answer. So let us see if we can answer that question.

The simplest explanation is that it gives you more effectiveness for each of the cards you buy. Suppose your deck is twice as slim as your opponent's. Then, that means that every card you buy is going to be used roughly twice as often, and hence all the improved cards you buy will be twice as effective.

In the last article, I pointed out the in order to buy a province or a colony, in essence, you need an average of $1.6 or $2.1 per card. Now, the obvious way to increase this average is to buy cards- most notably treasures that provide more $ than your average. However, conversely, one can increase this average by getting rid of (i.e., trashing) cards that provide less than your average. In fact it often gives you more of an advantage.

Let me give you a mathematical example. Suppose you have a set of 5 numbers which add up to 10. In order to increase the average, which would be better, to increase total by 1 to 11 or to decrease the quantity of numbers from 5 to 4? Of course, it is simple arithmetic exercise to see that, in fact, it is better to decrease the denominator (11/5 = 2.1 versus 10/4 = 2.5). Moreover, in most any similar situation, it correct to decrease the denominator if the current average is significantly larger than 1. To translate into Dominion terms: trashing can be more effective buying!

Now, let us give a specific Dominion example. It is the early game and suppose your deck currently contains 7 coppers, 3 estates and a Silver, and a Steward. You have A Steward, a Silver, an Estate and a 2 Coppers in hand. Consider two choices: Buy a Gold (using the +$2 function on the Steward) or trashing the Estate and a Copper and buying a Silver. For the first choice you are buying the all precious Gold; however, your average becomes: ($1*7 + $2*2 +$3*1) / 13 cards = $1.076 (here we count the Steward as a $2). Whereas for the second choice, you do not get the all precious Gold, but your average becomes: ($1*6 +$2*3)/ 11 cards = $1.091. The difference is small, but important. But further, imagine gaining an advantage of $0.015 each turn. That adds up! In the end it means you are going to be in province or colony territory (e.g. when your average breaks $1.6 or $2.1) a turn or two faster, that equates to buying one or two big point cards more than your opponent- which is often more than enough to win the game!

On the flip side of things. While it is helpful to decrease the number of cards in your deck, it is also equally helpful (or more appropriately hurtful) to clog your opponent's deck. Clearly, the best (that is, most hurtful) way to clog the opponent's deck is with curses. However, there are a few other attack cards that can “clog” you opponent's deck. Including Ambassador, Swindler, and Ghost Ship.

Before I continue, I should point out a very helpful and resourceful website: Councilroom.com

Thanks to Larry and rreneud, there are many many compiled statistics about various Dominion cards.

In particular, click here,

http://councilroom.com/popular_buys, and click the “Win rate with column.” twice (this is will assort it in desending order). Loosely speaking, this will sort all Dominion cards in the average “score” each cards yields when it is bought or willfully gained. Let us look at the top 10 cards on the list (without the “always present” treasures or victory cards or prizes) in order:

Montebank

Witch

Familar

Grand Market

Hunting Party

Masquerade

Ambassador

Ghost Ship

Sea Hag

Venture

I should make one remark about this list (actually I'm just reiterating what the same remarks on Council Room): It does not take into account causation. In particular, one cannot conclude that buying these cards will cause you to win the game. One might buy a particular card because he or she is winning in order to preserve his or her lead; or conversely, one might buy a card not on this list because he is losing. For the most part, I feel vary confident that the cards above cause a player to win instead of the other way around, but you should be wary of this as you browse Council Room further.

One observation to make about the list is that a majority of them either trash (or return to the supply) or and/or adds cards to the opponent's deck (mostly the later). THAT'S how vital controlling the quantity of cards in your deck is.

Some key points:

1. Trashing is often underrated by new players.

2. If Chapel is on the board, BUY IT! While it is not as imperative, the same things go for Steward, Lookout, Loan, Montebank, and Witch.

One additional remark I should make about the list from Council Room is that it considers the results of all players. Most particularly, if both players buy a card, then the average “win rate” for that game will be 1 regardless of who wins and who loses. Hence, the list above is a list of cards that are far better to have when playing against players who choose to pass on them. Specifically, the list is a list of underrated, yet effective cards. Chapel, Steward, Lookout and Loan do not make the list because most players buy them, and you should too!

3. In the early game, when in doubt, trash your cards.

Trashing cards is only effective when your deck is small. As the game continues and you grow your deck, trashing cards will become less worthwhile. If you are going to feed Oscar, do it early, or he will be grumpy.

4. Curses are much bigger of a deal than -1 VP

Newer players get view things in terms of points. After all, that is the point of the game. And in relative terms losing a point here and there is not that big of a deal. However, the key thing about the curse is not the loss of a victory point, but rather the fact that a curse clogs the opponent's deck. For a practical example, when you are Tortured, you are almost always better off discarding two cards than gaining a curse (unless you have a way to trash or otherwise use the Curse). For if you were to take the curse, you would would effectively be discarding (rather, forfeiting) one card every time you drew the curse. If you gain a curse in the early to middle game, you will still see it 4-5 times over the course of the game and that is 4-5 cards lost compared to the 2 cards you could have discarded up front.

Finally...

In this article, I have presented some good points and advice I would like to pose an alternative variant to players (at least of the players of the physical game):

“When a player 'gains a curse,' the card is placed in front of that player face-up along with his or her victory point chips (instead of wherever it might normally go), and are applied to that player's score at the end of the game as normal. In this variant, Curses cannot be trashed or discarded (say for Montebank)”.

The idea here is that Curses act like -1 victory point chips instead of clogging the deck.

Feel free to try this variant and post your feedback.