Card Categories

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When analyzing the board at the start of a game, one often analyzes each card by its functionality. These functionalities don't necessarily correlate with the card's type, but can be grouped into several productive categories.


[edit] Overview

Unlike card types, card categories are informal; they are not referenced in any way by any official rules or card texts. However, from a strategic point of view, they are very useful to think of. Since most kingdom cards are Actions, almost all card categories refer mainly, if not exclusively, to Actions. All kingdom Victory cards fall under Alt VP, while kingdom Treasures can fit into some of the more specific categories.

Broadly speaking, all Dominion cards are classified by their terminality: cards that decrease the number of Actions you have are called terminal, while cards that maintain or increase your Actions are called non-terminal. These are then usually broken down like so:

  • Terminal
    • "Hard" terminal (force you to choose which Action to play during a collision)
    • "Soft" terminal (can make use of another colliding terminal)
  • Non-terminal
    • Non-terminal, sensu stricto (maintains the number of Actions)
    • Village (increases the number of Actions)

Any non-terminal that draws at least 1 card (or exactly 1 card, depending on who you ask) is called a cantrip.

Throne Room variants blur the line between terminal and non-terminal; while most decrease your Actions, their ability to play other cards affects your deck similarly to a Village, and if they play a non-terminal card, your Actions can take a net increase.

From there, most categories care about other aspects of cards; what benefit the card brings to your deck.

[edit] Attack

Main article: Attack

[edit] Junker

Main article: Junking attack

Junkers are Attack cards that hand out junk to opponents.

Most often, that junk is CursesCurse.jpg and cards which hand out Curses specifically are called cursers. Cursers are often the most important card to look for. Cursers are cards which have the potential to distribute CursesCurse.jpg to other players. Cursers are some of the strongest cards in the game, including WitchWitch.jpg, TorturerTorturer.jpg, Sea HagSea Hag.jpg, FamiliarFamiliar.jpg, MountebankMountebank.jpg, Young WitchYoung Witch.jpg, FollowersFollowers.jpg, and Ill-Gotten GainsIll-Gotten Gains.jpg.

Cards which hand out Ruins specifically are called looters (and have type Looter). Looters comprise CultistCultist.jpg and MarauderMarauder.jpg.

SwindlerSwindler.jpg, AmbassadorAmbassador.jpg, and JesterJester.jpg are examples of junkers that are not necessarily cursers or looters (though they all can hand out Curses and Ruins in specific situations).

[edit] Handsize attack

Main article: Handsize attack

Handsize attacks are Attack cards that reduce the handsize of your opponents decks are also called handsize reducers, discard attacks, and discarders. Usually your opponents can choose the cards to discard and never have to discard down to less than 3 or 4 cards in hand. Typical examples are MilitiaMilitia.jpg, GoonsGoons.jpg, MargraveMargrave.jpg, FollowersFollowers.jpg, UrchinUrchin.jpg, and Sir MichaelSir Michael.jpg. Ghost ShipGhost Ship.jpg is a little different as it doesn't let your opponents discard the cards, they have to put them on top of their decks and it therefore messes with the tops of their decks too. BureaucratBureaucrat.jpg is similar although putting the Victory card on top of the deck hurts more than losing it out of the hand. Bureaucrat, CutpurseCutpurse.jpg, and TorturerTorturer.jpg are also the only discarding attacks that could stack down to less than 3 cards in hand - depending respectively on the number of Victory cards in hand, Coppers in hand, and the choice of your opponent. MinionMinion.jpg doesn't let your opponent choose what to keep, similar to PillagePillage.jpg, where you can choose the card to discard.

[edit] Deck order attack

Main article: Deck order attack

Deck order attacks are Attack cards that mess with the top of your opponents' decks. SpySpy.jpg, OracleOracle.jpg, and Scrying PoolScrying Pool.jpg let you inspect 1 or 2 cards which you may discard, so that bad cards are likely to stay on top. BureaucratBureaucrat.jpg, RabbleRabble.jpg, and Fortune TellerFortune Teller.jpg directly put Victory and Curse cards on top of their decks. Ghost ShipGhost Ship.jpg lets your opponents mess with their own decks because you make them put cards from their hands back on top.

[edit] Trashing attack

Main article: Trashing attack

Trashing attacks are Attack cards that trash valuable cards from your opponents' decks. Some of these are limited to Treasure cards, such as ThiefThief.jpg, Noble BrigandNoble Brigand.jpg, and Pirate ShipPirate Ship.jpg. Others offer replacements that your opponents may choose (like SaboteurSaboteur.jpg) or that you may choose (like SwindlerSwindler.jpg). Another subcategory trashes only within a price range from $3 to $6 (like KnightsKnights.jpg and RogueRogue.jpg).

[edit] Village

Main article: Village (card category)

Villages are cards that provide at least +2 Actions. Most of these cards have Village in the name and commonly facilitate engines centered around terminal cards. However, many villages come with additional bonuses (such as coinsBazaar.jpg, buysWorker's Village.jpg, or extra cardsBorder Village.jpg) which may aid many strategies.

[edit] Cantrip

Main article: Cantrip

Cantrips are Action cards which provide at least +1 Card and +1 Action, may provide any of a number of other bonuses, such as producing money (like PeddlerPeddler.jpg), providing additional actions (like VillageVillage.jpg), providing additional cards (like LaboratoryLaboratory.jpg), trashing (like Junk DealerJunk Dealer.jpg), attacking (like Sir BaileySir Bailey.jpg), cursing (like FamiliarFamiliar.jpg), or being worth VP (like Great HallGreat Hall.jpg). They are often considered to be harmless cards because playing a cantrip replaces the space it took up in your hand and the action it took to play it. Cantrips are inherently non-terminal and can usually safely be bought in multiples and played repeatedly within a turn.

[edit] Peddler variant

Main article: Peddler variant

Peddler variants are cantrips that produce $ or reduce costs (like HighwayHighway.jpg); one way or another they make it easier for you to buy cards.

[edit] Non-terminal drawer

Main article: Non-terminal draw

Non-terminal drawers are cantrips that provide at least +2 Cards. They are often considered to be variants of LaboratoryLaboratory.jpg or to be handsize increasers, since you have more cards in hand after you played them than before. They can be chained together for megaturns and they can supplement many strategies, including Big Money.

[edit] Terminal drawer

Main article: Terminal draw

Terminal drawers are Action cards that allow the player to draw cards but that don't provide additional actions. SmithySmithy.jpg and Hunting GroundsHunting Grounds.jpg are pure drawers when played, but terminal drawers may also be Attack cards (like TorturerTorturer.jpg, RabbleRabble.jpg, or MargraveMargrave.jpg). They pair well with villages and Big Money strategies.

[edit] Draw to X

Draw to X cards draw you a non-fixed number of cards by drawing until your hand is a certain size. LibraryLibrary.jpg and WatchtowerWatchtower.jpg are the archetypes of this category. They are particularly useful with disappearing villages and in response to discard attacks.

[edit] Terminal Silver

Main article: Terminal Silver

Terminal Silvers are Action cards that provide no additional actions and produce $2, eliciting a direct comparison to SilverSilver.jpg. Many Action and Attack cards are terminal Silvers and they can be crucial in strategies depending on sources of virtual money.

[edit] Trasher

Main article: Trasher

Trashers are cards with the ability to trash one or more cards from your own hand or deck. Trashing is a very strong move - often underestimated by beginners - because you remove low value cards from your deck so you can see your good cards more often. They generate a high density of quality. Because many cards have this ability, they are often divided into subcategories.

[edit] Trash for no benefit

Trash for no benefit cards are beneficial purely in the removal of unwanted cards from your deck. ChapelChapel.jpg, LookoutLookout.jpg, StewardSteward.jpg, MasqueradeMasquerade.jpg, and CountCount.jpg belong to this category. AmbassadorAmbassador.jpg fits here too, although it doesn't trash your cards, but removes them from your deck (which has often the same effect). IslandIsland.jpg and Native VillageNative Village.jpg aren't trashers either, but are often called pseudo trashers because they remove cards from your deck, but are returned to your deck later. LoanLoan.jpg, Junk DealerJunk Dealer.jpg, Dame AnnaDame Anna.jpg, and Jack of all TradesJack of All Trades.jpg also belong to this category because the benefits they provide don't depend on the trashing. MintMint.jpg gets an honorable mention as its trash for no benefit effect happens when you buy it.

[edit] Trash for benefit

Main article: Trash for benefit

Trash for benefit cards give a benefit dependent on the card you trash. Often, the benefit is another card and the dependence is on the cost of the trashed and gained cards; cards of this type are called remodelers. Remodelers comprise RemodelRemodel.jpg, MineMine.jpg, UpgradeUpgrade.jpg, ExpandExpand.jpg, RemakeRemake.jpg, GovernorGovernor.jpg, GraverobberGraverobber.jpg, ProcessionProcession.jpg, and RebuildRebuild.jpg. ForgeForge.jpg is different as it may trade in multiple cards for 1 card. DevelopDevelop.jpg works the other way around: it trashes 1 card for 2 cards. FarmlandFarmland.jpg gets an honorable mention as its remodel effect happens when you buy it.

There are many other trash for benefit cards that don't belong to the remodel family.

[edit] Trash for fixed benefit

Trash for fixed benefit cards give a benefit independent of the card you trash. MoneylenderMoneylender.jpg, Spice MerchantSpice Merchant.jpg, Trading PostTrading Post.jpg, HermitHermit.jpg, AltarAltar.jpg, Death CartDeath Cart.jpg, MercenaryMercenary.jpg, and RatsRats.jpg all give fixed benefits without regard to the cards you choose to trash. Trade RouteTrade Route.jpg and ForagerForager.jpg belong to this category too; although the benefit is variable, it does not necessarily depend on the card trashed.

[edit] Gainer

Main article: Gainers

Gainers gain other cards without using buys or trashing cards. Gainers always restrict the cards they may gain by name, type, or cost: BureaucratBureaucrat.jpg only gains Silver; WorkshopWorkshop.jpg and its variants gain cards up to a certain cost; SmugglersSmugglers.jpg is restricted by cost and by the cards the previous player gained on his last turn; UniversityUniversity.jpg is restricted by type and cost; GraverobberGraverobber.jpg and RogueRogue.jpg are restricted by cost and to cards in the trash; JesterJester.jpg cannot gain Victory cards and is restricted to the top cards of your opponents' decks.

TalismanTalisman.jpg, Horn of PlentyHorn of Plenty.jpg, and HagglerHaggler.jpg are different as they gain during the Buy phase and aren't able to gain Victory cards (Horn of Plenty can gain Victory cards at the cost of trashing itself).

FeastFeast.jpg isn't usually considered a gainer as you must trash a card (namely itself), though it can gain cards without trashing when played multiple times by Throne RoomThrone Room.jpg or its variants. DevelopDevelop.jpg is an exception to no-trashing rule as it gains 2 cards by trashing only one and is often considered as a Gainer. Border VillageBorder Village.jpg is an honorable mention as its gainer effect happens when you gain it.

[edit] Sifter

Main article: Sifter

Sifters are similar to drawers but they come with the penalty of discarding cards. They may draw or discard in either order, but the benefit to sift through the cards in your deck, keeping the valuable ones and discarding the worthless ones. Sifters shine when you have cards you don't mind discarding (thus, the discarding feels less like a penalty). Therefore, they can combat Curses, Copper, and other clutter and can help you throughout greening.

[edit] Defense cards

Further information: Beating attacks

Defense cards protect you from Attack cards or mitigate their effects. Many are Reaction cards since "when another player plays an Attack card" is the most common trigger for them.

Plenty of non-Reactions also offer protection.

There are countless ways cards and combinations of cards can combat Attack cards, documented on other pages. Donald X. even offers his own advise on defending against attack.

[edit] Alternate Victory cards

Main article: Alternate victory points

Often called alternate Victory cards or alt-VP cards, these are Victory cards in the Kingdom, not the basic Victory cards. The presence of Victory cards in the Kingdom can often steer the ideal strategy of the entire Kingdom. These cost from $3 to $6, allowing you to craft a winning strategy that never produces the $8 or $11 usually required to purchase game-winning ProvincesProvince.jpg and ColoniesColony.jpg. Examples include GardensGardens.jpg, DukeDuke.jpg, VineyardVineyard.jpg, and FairgroundsFairgrounds.jpg. The presence of these and other alternate Victory cards often results in the pursuance of Rush strategies in order to gain more of these cards than your opponents - as the game can often depend on them. Their cheaper cost also makes them easier to gain with gainers, instead of buying them (see the classic Workshop-Gardens strategy).

[edit] Alternate Treasure cards

As above, alternate Treasure cards refer to Treasure cards in the Kingdom, not the basic Treasure cards. The presence of Treasure cards in the Kingdom, however, is rarely game-altering. Most of these cards fit into the categories of their Action counterparts. Examples are:

  • Ill-Gotten GainsIll-Gotten Gains.jpg is a unique curser.
  • VentureVenture.jpg can be considered the Treasure equivalent of a cantrip (specifically a Peddler variant).
  • LoanLoan.jpg is both a trasher and a quasi-sifter.
  • Horn of PlentyHorn of Plenty.jpg is a notably powerful gainer.
  • HaremHarem.jpg is an alternate Victory card.

Among others. While it is good to note their presence, alternate Treasure cards rarely form the centerpiece of a strategy.

[edit] Cards that bend the rules

Essentially, all cards extend the rules of Dominion. However, some interact more deeply with the basic premises of the game. These cards are the ones that let you take multiple turns (like OutpostOutpost.jpg and PossessionPossession.jpg), play cards multiple times (like Throne RoomThrone Room.jpg, CounterfeitCounterfeit.jpg, or PrincePrince.jpg), or buy cards from outside the Kingdom (like Black MarketBlack Market.jpg). Band of MisfitsBand of Misfits.jpg probably counts in this category (although when played it often mimics a card from a different category).

This category is a catch-all for any remaining unusual cards. The use of these cards often introduce special situations and unusual tactics. Possession and Black Market are notably disliked by many and require many extended FAQs to clarify the disruption they cause to the standard rules.

Dominion Card Categories
Attacks Attack immunityCurserDeck 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 variantVillageConditional non-terminal
Other Alt-VPBasic cardsDuration drawCommand variantGainerLuck-basedNon-Attack interactionOne-shotRemodelerSplit pileTop deckerTrasherVanillaExtra turn
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