Dominion Basics (Part 2 of 5): Play and Draw Engines
This Strategy-Note was written by openCards user Dukat and was published first on "The Continuing Committee (trekcc.org)" at May 27th, 2012.
This article is part of the article serie "Dominion Basics" from "Dukat (Andreas Rheinländer)". Also see:
- Previous "Dominion Basics" (# 1): "Dominion Basics (Part 1 of 5): Affiliation Introduction".
- Next "Dominion Basics" (# 3): "Dominion Basics (Part 3 of 5): Dominion Deck Types".
This article is the second in a series of five to introduce the basics of how to play as the Dominion. The first article was a general introduction - beginning with this one, it will become more concrete.
Every affiliation needs some kind of play and draw engine. Play engines are mostly Headquarters (or Time Locations) or other cards that allow personnel to report for free. Even though the Dominion also has Headquarters, their system of reporting - beside using Headquarters - works a bit differently.
When it comes to draw engines, most affiliations use the standard draw engines that are not affiliation-specific (like Duck Blind, Kivas Fajo - Collector or Temporal Shifting). Even though the Dominion could use those, they have a variety of so-called native draw engines (see below) that are exclusive to them.
In the following, I will depict how Dominion play and draw engines work, why they should be used instead of the universal engines and how this can be done.
As stated in the first articles, the Dominion is organized hierarchically.
The highest position in this hierarchy is that of the Founders. There are two ways of reporting a Founder:
- Reporting for free (once each turn) at The Great Link (Dominion Headquarters). This is the simplest way to begin with when building a Dominion deck.
- The second way of reporting Founders (plural!) is using In the Bag. This card allows an equipment in play to be exchanged with a shape-shifter in hand. Since most shape-shifters are Founders, it covers the Dominion affiliation efficiently.
- In addition to that, since equipment reports for free at a Remote Supply Depot, the only limitation is the number of cards in hand.
This is how it works: Build a Remote Supply Depot somewhere. At start of a turn, one equipment card reports for free – using In The Bag the Founder in hand is exchanged with the equipment card just played for free – the equipment card reports for free again and so on. In a deck designed to report masses of Founders each turn, it is possible to report about 5 or 6 each turn this way. Only Hologram decks using I've Been Waiting For You can keep this speed up.
Right after the Founders, Vorta are the part of the Dominion giving orders (at least in the show). Unfortunately, at this time, no Vorta reports for free. Part 3 of the Dominion Basics article series will deal with the role of Vorta in Dominion decks. Right now, the only Vorta that can be downloaded is Deyos. He is the key figure in getting a Jem'Hadar draw engine running (see below).
Last but not least, the Jem'Hadar are the ones executing orders. Jem'Hadar have to be separated into adult and Young Jem'Hadar. Young Jem'Hadar have no skills except for their special skill and Youth. Their role will be explained below.
On the other hand, there are two ways of reporting adult Jem'Hadar. Neither of them is a free report, but neither of them costs a card play.
Why is it important to not call them free reports?
The first and most important way of getting Jem'Hadar in play is the so-called "Young Jem'Hadar exchange." The game text on Young Jem'Hadar says that he can be exchanged with any universal Jem'Hadar in hand (at the end of any turn). This game text offers an interesting wording: it says "exchange." Therefore, this card does not count as being reported. The same goes for In The Bag, which also states that the cards (equipment and Founder) are being exchanged. This is important because some cards, especially Second Edition backwards-compatible cards, refer to "when you play this personnel." One example is Rodak'koden. His ability cannot be used when he is exchanged with a Young Jem'Hadar. This difference may become vital in the future.
This way of reporting may sound simple and not very powerful. However, in a deck designed to report only (or mostly) Jem'Hadar, it is crucial to get enough Jem'Hadar in play. To get enough cards into hand, Deyos is the key. Most important about Young Jem'Hadar is that they report for free to the Jem'Hadar Birthing Chamber (in any quadrant!). This way, one just has to report enough Young Jem'Hadar for free and then exchange them with several Jem'Hadar in hand.
The second way of getting one Jem'Hadar into play each turn is Assign Support Personnel (once per game per personnel card title) in combination with Dominion War Efforts. Dominion War Efforts allows Assign Support Personnel to stay on table instead of being discarded. It may sound odd to spend two seed slots to download one personnel each turn. However, there are about a dozen Jem'Hadar support personnel cards (including two Second Edition backwards-compatible cards: Odera'Klen and Rak'tazan). Furthermore, this way, a player can CHOOSE the skills he or she needs by just downloading the appropriate personnel. Jem'Hadar support personnel cover most of the skills needed in the game: SECURITY, ENGINEER, OFFICER, Navigation, Astrophysics, Anthropology, Computer Skill, Transporter Skill, Stellar Cartography, Leadership, Physics, and Geology. There are also two Dominion support personnel holograms (Dar and Wodek'idan) who also cover Biology and Exobiology. One later part of this article series will deal with the role of holograms in Dominion decks, so I will come back to those two at that time. The only other affiliation able to choose their personnel virtually freely are the Borg (downloading drones).
To conclude at this moment: any number (!) of universal Jem'Hadar, who report for free, can be exchanged at the end of any turn and one personnel can be downloaded each turn. But how about getting enough cards in hand to do so? This is what the next part of this article is about.
In any case, there are two kinds of draw engines: universal draw engines (like Kivas Fajo - Collector, Surprise Party, Handshake, Duck Blind, and so on) and native draw engines. A native draw engine is anything that can – due to any kind of restrictions or requirements – be used by one specific affiliation or sub-group only. Prominent examples are Visit Cochrane Memorial, Ferengi Financial Data Net, and Process Ore.
In most cases, universal draw engines are the basis for any deck-building operation. However, in the case of building a Dominion deck, this is not recommended. Let’s see why.
There are four native Dominion draw engines:
- Main engines are Deyos.
- and Obedience Brings Victory.
- In addition to that, there is Jem'Hadar Shrouding; it allows for only one card draw, but its main use is not to draw cards but to battle (more on that in later articles).
- There is also the backwards-compatible 2E Keevan, Conniving Liar. In his current state, he is also a very powerful draw engine – but due to its 2E origin, he works in quite a different way.
Here is how they work:
Deyos allows a player to draw a card whenever a Jem’Hadar enters play at his location. The wording is "enters play," not "when played." This means that the Young Jem’Hadar exchange operation falls into that category. Deyos is one of the most intruiging draw engines in First Edition and the most powerful draw engine for any Dominion deck that includes Jem'Hadar.
Here is a calculation of a standard Dominion deck:
- two Young Jem’Hadar exchanges per turn
- one (unique) Jem’Hadar card play
- one Jem’Hadar Support Personnel download
Note: This deck has only one Jem’Hadar Birthing Chamber seed (the other one can be downloaded using Ultimatum).
Obedience Brings Victory
This card allows the player to draw two cards when Ketracel-White is rationed and it allows a download of Victory Is Life to hand or Subjugate Planet to that location. "Rationing" means that there are two Ketracel-White and one Vorta. Instead of both cards counting down, only one does. This happens at the end of each turn. When it does, Obedience Brings Victory may be played and two cards can be drawn or one can be converted to a download mentioned. Downloading Subjugate Planet is especially helpful because under normal cicumstances it would cost a card play (or a seed slot).
In its current state, it allows the player to draw a card when placing a Jem’Hadar beneath it. A Jem’Hadar deck must include at least a dozen Young Jem’Hadar, but only two or three of them must be in play at the same time. Spare Young Jem’Hadar can be placed under Jem’Hadar Shrouding to draw a card. Using Lower Decks, they have Strength 9, which is more than sufficient. This topic will be dealt with in particular in article no. 2 of the "Advanced Dominion Gameplay" articles series (which will be subsequent to the Dominion Basics series this article belongs to).
2E Keevan (Conniving Liar)
This card is some kind of special. He was released long after the introduction of the Dominion in First Edition. He uses the Second Edition wording, which has a profound impact on Dominion gameplay! He allows a player to have both players draw a card whenever a Jem’Hadar personnel is played. So what is the difference between the two of them? Deyos reads "enters play," which includes Young Jem’Hadar exchanged. Keevan does not. His skill only counts when Jem’Hadar are played (that means reported or downloaded, not exchanged). However, he – as opposed to Deyos – also includes Young Jem’Hadar (as well as playing Jem’Hadar as normal card play and the Assign Support Personnel download).
When Deyos and Keevan are both in play, the following happens.
- Young Jem’Hadar
- one card draw from Keevan for each Young Jem’Hadar
- Assign Support Personnel download
- two card draws (one from Deyos, one from Keevan)
- Young Jem’Hadar exchange
- one per Jem’Hadar from Deyos
- Jem’Hadar card play
- two card draws (one from Deyos, one from Keevan)
Assuming the standard from above, here is what happens then:
- two Young Jem’Hadar for free to Jem’Hadar Birthing Chambers (= 2 card draws)
- two Young Jem’Hadar exchanges per turn (= 2 card draws)
- one (unique) Jem’Hadar card play (= 2 card draws)
- one Jem’Hadar Support Personnel download (= 2 card draws)
That makes 8 card draws. Adding Jem’Hadar Shrouding and Obedience Brings Victory, that makes 11 card draws per turn. When seeding 4 Birthing Chambers, you go to a total of 15 card draws per turn (+2 / +2). Of course, this is the theory.
I had tested such a deck (without an opponent) with a test series of 50 games in which I played 10 turns. The average number of reports per turn was 6.6 and the average number of card draws was 13.1 – which is quite close to the theoretical number of 15. The amount of 6.6 cards was reached beginning with turn 3.2 (average), lasting until turn 9.3 (average).
Non-native draw engines
All of the cards named above are native Dominion cards. Most players use Handshake, Kivas Fajo - Collector, Surprise Party and other cards to boost their draw engine. If a Dominion player includes such cards, it will obstruct the flow to get enough (adult) Jem’Hadar and Young Jem'Hadar into hand - which I tested on many occasions.
Assuming the above-mentioned deck, using, for example, 15 Kivas Fajo - Collectors in this deck would mean that the ratio of Young Jem’Hadar to the deck size decreases. As a result, the amount of Young Jem’Hadar playable per turn and therefore the number of Jem’Hadar able to be exchanged at the end of the turn also decreases.
This is a brief example. Several other draw engines and combined draw engines result in the same deck interference. Several people already tried to use Hexany (and other massive draw engines) to boost a Dominion deck (of several kinds). No one succeeded in drawing more cards than when using one or more native Dominion draw engines. In addition to that, it can slow down the deck (due to a worse Young Jem’Hadar / Jem’Hadar ratio). Therefore: when using one (or more) Dominion draw engine(s), a deck shall not include any other draw engines at all (they are, as it was shown, not necessary).
Every standard Dominion deck (future articles will deal with all other special Dominion deck types) is based on the Deyos / Jem’Hadar draw engine. This draw engine, on the other hand, is based on the Young Jem’Hadar-to-deck size ratio. The formula is Deck size divided by 7 = number of Young Jem’Hadar that need to be included
A deck that has (or is planned to have) about 100 cards should include about 15 Young Jem’Hadar. The reason is pure statistics: since a starting hand has 7 cards, a calculation of "deck size / 7 = Young Jem’Hadar" means a probability of 100% to have one Young Jem’Hadar in hand on turn 1. Also, a deck should include 3 to 4 adult Jem’Hadar for each Young Jem’Hadar. In a 100 card deck, that makes it 15 Young Jem’Hadar, 60 Jem’Hadar and 25 other cards. Such a deck has a perfect draw flow (assuming it was shuffled normally).
Everything up to this part dealt with content and ratios. Another very important part in playing a Dominion deck is the deck size. There are a lot of affiliations whose decks can vary between 30 and 200 cards (e.g. Borg, Bajorans, Federation) – without any problems. That is not the case with a Dominion deck. The ideal deck size is based on a very good draw and play flow which is based on probabilities and ideal ratios. My experience has shown that the ideal deck size of a normal Dominion deck is between 60 and 120 cards. Nothing more, nothing less. I often tried to build smaller decks. It didn’t work because a deck that is too small cannot produce a sufficient draw and play flow. If the deck is too big (I also tried bigger ones, often), the flow loses its tight calculation and the result is snatchy.
Especially the last part of this article dealt with the most basic aspects of building a Dominion deck. That is where the next article will jump in: it will deal with the entire range of Dominion deck types – typical decks, not-so-typical decks and some special deck types.