Three-pile ending

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A three-pile ending is when the game ends by emptying three Supply piles, rather than the ProvinceProvince.jpg (or ColonyColony.jpg) pile. When this is done as an intentional, strategic move by a player, it is called three-piling.

A few cards, usually Alt-VP cards in rush games, play best when a three-pile ending is the goal, and there are many cards, including +Buy, gainers, and cursers, that can be very useful in achieving such an ending.

In games with more than four players, four empty Supply piles are required to end the game.

[edit] Cards that like three-pile endings

Most counting Alt-VP cards:

Victory token cards that need to continue adding cards for fuel:

Swift-acting cursers:

[edit] Strategy

In order to achieve victory with a three-pile ending, you have to be sure that you have the most VP. The most straightforward way to do that is by cheaply increasing your own points with Kingdom cards. Alt-VP cards that give static VP, like HaremHarem.jpg and IslandIsland.jpg, are usually not enough to justify trying to empty out three Supply piles, though Distant Lands'Distant Lands.jpg 4 VP is often quite tempting. The counting Victory cards, like Gardens, are more likely to provide enough VP to viably compete with Provinces, but most need some sort of gaining enabler, like WorkshopWorkshop.jpg or IronworksIronworks.jpg, in order to pump up their points. Bishop usually needs help trashing to merit three-piling, but in such Kingdoms it might be more worth it to go for a golden deck and just buy Provinces; Goons, on the other hand, usually needs the help of an engine so it can be played consistently, and in multiples, in order to produce enough VP to overwhelm any player foolish enough to only go for Provinces.

The second necessary part to three-piling is the actual means to emptying Supply piles. The most obvious way to do that is through +Buy or gainers, though some are better than others. Cheap, preferably non-terminal +Buy, like Candlestick MakerCandlestick Maker.jpg or Market SquareMarket Square.jpg, works well, as do gainers that are either cheap, like Workshop, or otherwise useful, like Ironworks. Both of these groups do well emptying out their own piles; including the Alt-VP card in question, that just leaves one Supply pile left to empty, usually the EstatesEstate.jpg or DuchiesDuchy.jpg. Curser games often lead naturally to three-piling, as the CurseCurse.jpg pile usually quickly empties.

While Alt-VP rushes are most commonly associated with three-piling, engines can often end up three-piling as well. Engine players will often try to gain as many engine parts as possible, usually contesting certain piles in mirror matches, such as Fishing VillageFishing Village.jpg, Grand MarketGrand Market.jpg, and LaboratoryLaboratory.jpg. With +Buy and cheap engine parts, more than one pile can empty without either player gaining a single Victory card. Such games will often end with one player buying one Province or Colony, and then finishing off a third Supply pile, squeaking a win. CityCity.jpg is notorious for this, as it requires two Supply piles to be empty in order to give its full effect in the first place. This can be frustrating when a player is trying to build their engine toward a hard to get card, such as TeacherTeacher.jpg or PrincePrince.jpg, and the game ends before they can even make use of it.

A few cards are exceptionally good at emptying piles. Border VillageBorder Village.jpg, StonemasonStonemason.jpg, and MessengerMessenger.jpg all gain either on-gain or on-buy; since you can buy a card once every turn, but can only play a card once every shuffle (usually), these cards usually empty piles faster than conventional gainers. MasterpieceMasterpiece.jpg is an interesting case; the only pile it can empty is the SilverSilver.jpg pile, and so works beautifully with FeodumFeodum.jpg, but is less useful with the other counting Victory cards.

Ill-Gotten Gains is the ultimate three-piler, as it provides both the VP (in this case simply relative to your opponents due to all the Curses they've been given) and the pile emptying; once all the Ill-Gotten Gains are gone (barring any AmbassadorAmbassador.jpg or TraderTrader.jpg shenanigans), two Supply piles are empty, and the Ill-Gotten Gains player just needs to empty a third.

Deck archetypes Big MoneyComboEngineRushSlog
Strategic concepts CollisionCounterCyclingDeadDuchy dancingEndgameGreeningMegaturnMirrorOpeningOpportunity costPenultimate Province RulePayloadPinPiledrivingReshuffleSilver testStop cardSplit advantageStrictly betterSynergyTerminalityTerminal spaceThree-pile endingTurn advantageVictory pointVillage idiot
Rules Blue dog ruleCostDeckGameplayMaterialsNo Visiting ruleStop-Moving rule (previously Lose Track rule) • Supply (Kingdom) • Triggered effectsTurn
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