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Pearl Diver, a cantrip card.

Cantrip is the common slang term for any Dominion Action card which offers +1 Action and +1 Card. It is essentially self-replacing (not taking up space in your hand or taking up an action) and will usually offer some side benefit, such as the +$1 PeddlerPeddler.jpg offers or the additional +1 Action of VillageVillage.jpg.

The name "cantrip" is a slang term from the Magic: The Gathering card game, where it describes a spell that draws a replacement spell on casting. Magic borrowed the term from Dungeons and Dragons, which ultimately derived it from the misty depths of Scottish etymology.


[edit] Cantrips harming the deck

In most cases, cantrips are seen as cards that cannot harm the deck, since you receive a benefit by playing them and doing so does not prevent or delay you from drawing other cards in your deck. There are a few exceptions.

Discard attacks like MilitiaMilitia.jpg or GoonsGoons.jpg which require the player to make a choice of which cards to discard are more powerful against hands containing a few cantrips. This is because the player discarding does not know which cards are going to be drawn by the cantrips, so the chance of making a sub-optimal choice is greater.

Similarly, although cantrips don't "take up space" in your deck on your turn since you can draw right past them, there may be cards you want to have in your hand between turns—Reactions to protect you from an opponent's Attack, ProvinceProvince.jpg to block an opponent's TournamentTournament.jpg, etc. Filling your deck with cantrips will make it less likely that you have in hand the card you need when it's not your turn. (Cards other than cantrips have this property as well, of course; but it's easier to lose sight of the fact with cantrips since they don't have this property on your turn.)

Like any other Action card, a cantrip can be drawn dead—i.e., drawn by a terminal Action card without sufficient +Actions to be able to play the cantrip after you draw it—and thus can harm a Big Money deck that depends on terminal draw without villages.

Cantrips may also be less useful with draw-up-to-X cards like LibraryLibrary.jpg, WatchtowerWatchtower.jpg, and Jack of all TradesJack of All Trades.jpg. Although cantrips do not outright harm the deck in these cases, they under-perform other cards which do not draw cards (and which typically offer more benefits in compensation for the lack of draw).

[edit] Other Nicknames for Cantrips

Some players refer to Cantrips as 'invisible' cards, based on them replacing themselves into your hand with no net negatives. Donald X has referred to Cantrips as 'free' cards. [1]

[edit] Disagreement over the definition

Some players have differing views on exactly what cards the term "cantrip" encompasses. Some people require that a cantrip exactly replaces itself (i.e. always draws exactly 1 card), while others call cards which sometimes or always draw 2 or more cards (such as LaboratoryLaboratory.jpg) a cantrip. Another point of contention is whether cards which can harm you directly, and/or decrease handsize when played—such as Junk DealerJunk Dealer.jpg, whose trashing is not optional—are classed as cantrips.

[edit] Examples of Cantrip Cards

Cards in italics have been removed.

[edit] Simple cantrips

These cards typically provide +1 Card, +1 Action, and usually some other effect that does not mandatorily change handsize this turn.

EnchantressEnchantress.jpg causes the first Action each other player plays on their turn to become a cantrip.

[edit] Fringe cases

  • VassalVassal.jpg can act like a cantrip if the top card of your deck is a non-terminal Action.
  • IronworksIronworks.jpg becomes a cantrip if it is used to gain an Action–Victory card.
  • MysticMystic.jpg is a cantrip if you can guess what card is on top of your deck.
  • Spice MerchantSpice Merchant.jpg is a Copper trasher with a net effect resembling a cantrip: after you trash a Copper from your hand, it can give you +2 Cards and +1 Action, leaving you with the same handsize and action count you had before you played it.
  • ForumForum.jpg, FugitiveFugitive.jpg, and Secret PassageSecret Passage.jpg draw more than 1 card, but maintain handsize.
  • RazeRaze.jpg acts as a sifting cantrip if you trash a card costing more than $0.
  • Mountain VillageMountain Village.jpg is a cantrip if the discard pile is empty. If there are cards in the discard pile, Mountain Village resembles a cantrip in that it doesn't reduce your handsize, but unlike a typical cantrip it doesn't help you cycle your deck.

[edit] Handsize-decreasing cantrips

These cards provide +1 Card, +1 Action, but mandatorily decrease handsize after they draw.

[edit] Lab variants

These cards can increase net handsize, on top of their cantrip effect; i.e., they provide non-terminal draw. (Fringe and optional cases are omitted.)

[edit] Buy-neutral Events

Some Events, such as BorrowBorrow.jpg and Scouting PartyScouting Party.jpg, are sort of "buy cantrips" in that they don't cost a Buy to buy. This makes them sort of an analogue to cantrips; where cantrips are Action-neutral, these are Buy-neutral.

Attacks CurserDeck inspection attackDeck order attackHandsize attackJunking attackTrashing attackTurn-worsening attack
Buy/Money +BuyCost-reducerDisappearing moneyOverpayPeddler variantTerminal silverVirtual coinVirtual +Buy
Cycling Deck discarderDeck inspectorDiggingDiscard for benefitSifter
Terminality CantripNon-terminalNon-terminal drawSoft terminalTerminalTerminal drawThrone Room variantVillage
Other Alt-VPBasic cardsDuration drawEmulatorGainerLuck-basedNon-Attack interactionOne-shotSplit pileTop deckerTrasherVanilla
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