(Once Upon a) Dominion


Watching WanderingWinder’s new dominion videos really gives me the itch to play. The last few expansions seem pretty interesting – DonaldV is still bringing new concepts into the game – although I am starting to see that power creep that happens after multiple expansions.

The new client seems way more stable… But apparently they’ve been down to one dev for a year and still have significant bugs & toxicity issues. $40/year still feels steep though.

I am trying to figure out if there are other solutions to power creep in games that continuously expand. Rotation seems to be the best anyone can come up with, and that’s got its own issues. If you develop new cards that are below the pareto frontier, they won’t be used. If you develop new cards above the frontier, you get creep and old cards are now worthless. How can you possibly keep getting new ideas, but so perfectly balancing them that they are equally powerful to the cards that exist?

Considering the number of people that play, in order to pay the salary of one dev they probably need $40 a year. That price is still to steep for me. If it was more like RftG app, i would be all in.

A possible solution to power creep is to introduce new mechanics into the game and have the new cards utilize those, instead of just being more powerful cards? I don’t know.

Relevant: Witch in 2018 | Dominion Strategy
DonaldV has done an amazing job of balancing the old & new cards considering, though. I think the fact that you only ever play with 10 cards mitigates the creep to some degree, since it doesn’t matter if there’s a better card, if it isn’t in the game. Fact is, from the very beginning of the game, it was possible to get a kingdom with only 3 really worthwhile cards.
They removed some cards from base & updated a few as well, which despite being annoying, looks like it was a good idea. And the new mechanics are cool.

Every game has tried that. The cards with the new mechanics are still either below, on, or above the pareto frontier of the existing cards.

Rotation and just having formats in general works really well for magic. The main tournament constructed formats are:

  1. All cards ever printed (with a banned list).
  2. All cards printed since 8th edition in 2003 (with a banned list).
  3. The last 5-8 sets with a yearly rotation.

This is true. Dominion suffers a lot less than other games. If a low power card is chosen for the 10, but no more powerful card is chosen, then it’s still a useful card. In a constructed game the lower power card would simply never see play, and just takes up space. Any Dominion card has the chance to see play in the right set of 10.

I think maybe there just needs to be a fancy app to do randomization that rules out certain combinations. Still pick 10 cards at random, but only allow combinations where all 10 cards have a chance to be worth buying. This can probably be achieved by compiling a lot of data from online play. With enough data you could see which cards never get picked, or never get picked by winners, or never get picked when other cards are present, etc.

Basically you setup a machine learning algo to choose 10 cards and tell it that it it successful if the humans buy at least 1x of every card.

I really don’t like yearly rotation. Hearthstone does that to. I wish they would do 1 set in, 1 set out. 1 set in, 1 set out. The reason is that any set that comes out later in the year is less valuable because you get less playing time with it. Sets that come out early in the year are more valuable because they stay in the format like 8-12 months longer. Also, the card pool keeps growing and shrinking. Right after rotation happens the card pool is very small, and the complexity of the game decreases. Then it increases as the year goes on. It would be nice to have the same size card pool at all times.


I don’t think this can work in all games, but I like cards that have dual uses, or the use can vary depending on the situation.

In the Star Wars LCG for example, later on in the lifecycle of the game, they introduced a new kind of card called “Pilots.” Instead of just being unit cards like an X-Wing, or individual hero cards like Luke Skywalker, Pilot cards were kind of a mixture of both. You had pilots like Wedge Antilles, who you could play as a unit/hero, and he’d be ok, but if you attached him to an X-Wing, he became super powerful. Pilots allowed Star Wars to introduce new cards, but they combo-ed with old cards, so players wanted those in their decks as well.

Another example both from the Star Wars LCG and Destiny is Darth Vader’s lightsaber. Any Sith force user can use Darth Vader’s lightsaber, but when you attached it to Vader specifically, he became a beast.

If possible, I think more games should try to introduce multi-use or multi-role cards like these.

They tried to do that and basically people rebelled because they couldn’t understand it.

You can understand how to play M:tG, but you can’t understand 1 set in, 1 set out.

I’m working on something.

Most people really don’t know how to play MTG. They netdeck and play one specific combo that they can’t explain when asked by a judge.

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The big issue is that people want to find a deck and play with it. Constant rotations make everyone start at square one every three months and it’s hard for less dedicated players to keep relearning everything. If you want a competitive game that changes every set what magic does with limited play is lightyears ahead of the competition.

But deckbuilding is usually more fun than actually playing in these games =P

Modern connected gaming communities and rapid analysis lead basically any game to devolve into a static meta practically overnight.

Look at the earliest days of magic. There were literally only a handful of viable decks in the Revised days. Anything else you tried to play was just a guaranteed loss.

The only reason this didn’t impact the community was that most play was local and amateur. Once I hit the tournament scene, I saw what was up.

After that, no one local would ever play with me again. I had “boring” decks that crushed anyone who dared enter my presence. I couldn’t build a competitive Type I deck, but I had multiple serious-biz Type IIs in that era.

I even started entering local crappo tournaments and winning like crazy. The real meta just never penetrated the local scenes back then.

Now we have the Internet.

That’s why I mostly draft. Deckbuilding and card selection are part of the experience every time.

Let’s say you have four rotations a year. That means you have a deck for 3 months before some of your cards rotate out. If you are playing the game so rarely that you didn’t play out your deck in 3 months, then how much are you playing? How much do you care? You really have people who build a deck and then don’t play or pay attention for like 7 months? You’re building your strategy around that person who barely plays instead of around the person who is giving you all the money?

The real answer is that Commander and Limited are pretty much the best ways to play Magic, and standard is fucking boring for many of the reasons discussed.

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Limited is great but oh god Commander is a garbage fire.

It’s a fun garbage fire, though.

You couldn’t pay me to play 3+ player magic. It’s politics disguised as magic.

Pointing huge creatures at your friends and getting a million things on the stack controlled by different people because someone brought a deck with every version of Fork ever printed is the best part of multiplayer free-for-all EDH. That, and always playing Temple Bell.

If you can’t tell, I mostly played commander with my D&D group, about 10 years ago. We pretty strictly adhered to the philosophy from the ancient EDH page. Most of the memorable stuff we did was like, equipping Worldslayer to a caribou token and swinging for the board reset.

(Just to make this post actually-about Dominion - I prefer Dominion as a 2p game, the multiplayer dynamics don’t really add much, but they don’t take away much, either)

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