Monday, 4 May 2015

A Tale of Traps

Game Log


First of all, I want to say I don't actually think this game was played particularly well, by any stretch, by either player. Indeed, the reason I'm posting this is that there were a number of errors being made which I see as fairly common even for players who are pretty strong. As such, I'm going to refrain from posting any images here which would show my opponent's name, as the point really isn't to shame him, but rather to try to point out these pitfalls so that you, the reader, will be able to avoid them. Obviously, you can figure out who it is if you really want to.

Trap 1: University
The University trap is very easy to fall into. There are lots of good and shiny 5-cost cards, and you want lots of them, so you go for it. The problem is, this is incredibly slow. You have to buy a Potion, buy a University, and only then can you start getting those 5s to pour in. A player who just went straightforwardly for buying those 5s the old-fashioned way is just going to be 5s ahead for several shuffles, and particularly if those 5s have an effect of improving your deck's ability to build itself (as is often true), perhaps just indefinitely. On top of this, as a village, University is a Necropolis - and that's card-negative, generally not where you want to be. Given all this, in order to make University worth it, you usually want some plan to make the game go late (often extra points) and/or ways to see those reshuffles quickly (i.e. deck-thinning). You do have some of that here (Tunnel and Island give more points, Spice Merchant thins a bit, Embassy and Margrave can help you draw). But the draw is pretty weak - only Margrave can combine with University to actually increase your hand-size, and then you are not doing it in a very potent way - the draw power is equivalent to Village-Moat. Yeah. So I really don't believe in University or the Engine here.

Trap 2: Opening Potion
This trap is a bit tough, and perhaps I shouldn't call it a trap, because it's very often correct. The thought is 'if I want cards that cost 2p or 3p, I should open potion'. And because you typically want those cards as soon as possible, this is indeed most of the time correct. But there are lots of exceptions. And I think this is likely one of those exceptions - if you want to go for the engine, I think you want to open Spice Merchant and defer those Universities for a while, as getting your deck thinned and spinning a bit is more important than loading up on those 5-costs super-fast (and indeed, you aren't so much slower anyway, as you are more likely to be able to just buy some 5s). A good example of delayed potion happened in a game this morning on Adam Horton's stream which can be found here.

Trap 3: Tunnel
People often like to rush for Tunnel+Enabler, thinking they'll gain lots of golds and get way ahead. This can sometimes be good, but generally it's quite mediocre, even with fairly decent enablers. More importantly, in doing this, you're playing a deck that is more like a slog than anything else - it takes an awful long time for you to get a decent number of golds out of this, and in the meantime, you have added a nothing card to your deck (and this is even assuming you do hit your collisions pretty well). In the long run, you do have a gold-heavy, fairly robust deck, and some extra points to boot. So it is generally like a slog, and not necessarily a great one. Of course, there are other ways to play the card. What doesn't make sense, though, is trying to get this to work in an engine. You're adding lots of non-draw cards to your deck, which makes it exceptionally difficult to draw your deck. Of course, the enablers usually sift you, so you may well still be able to have some ability to draw your important cards, but the point still remains that as you increase the number of cards you have in your deck, you decrease the chances of getting everything you need to come together. In this game, your draw isn't great, and especially given your few villages and mostly needing Embassy over Margrave to enable, you're eventually turning yourself into something near Province-per-turn mode. And keep in mind, you were pretty slow to get there. This really lowers your ability to reap the benefits of an engine.

Trap 4: One Copper Trasher
I have to give credit here for pointing this one out to Stef, the longtime top player in the game. Here's the deal: usually, you only want one copy of a copper trasher (Moneylender or especially Spice Merchant, as here). This is because you're going to run out of fuel for them fairly quickly, and there's diminishing returns on these cards, as you get to trash a lot fewer cards per trasher with each successive one. However, in games where there is some trash-for-benefit card, getting the second one gets much, much better, and is very often the thing you want to do. Here, I was the player who overlooked this: I slam lots of silvers and only one Spice Merchant. This is fine, but given my Butcher strategy, getting the second SM just seems a good bit better.

As for how the actual board goes? Well, in the game, my SM+2 Butchers was fine enought o overcome the wonky kind-of-engine from my opponent. In general, though, I am not sure which way to turn between Margrave-based BM, Embassy-based BM (picking up tunnels at the right moment), or 2SM+1-3Butcher BM.

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