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Alchemist - +2 Cards, +1 Action; When you discard this from play, you may put this on top of your deck if you have a Potion in play.

I have a friend who loves this card. I know that every time it's on the table, he will load up on them, and chain long turns that take ages. It's even more powerful when Scout and/or Apothecary are available, too.

Obviously, I should be able to defeat this strategy by 1) beating him to it (which winds up being more of a luck thing), or 2) augmenting it with a particular card he may not have noticed on the table. But to me, that makes all Alchemist games very monotonous.

I realize that sometimes an Alchemist deck is just the best strategy, but I also know that this shouldn't always be the case. What are the weaknesses of this strategy? Are there sorts of cards I should look for to play an alternate strategy that can still win out over an Alchemist-heavy deck?

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Are you sure you're playing this correctly? I believe that you don't discard the card from play until your turn ends, so you'll only get to use him once per turn (per alchemist card). –  Neal Tibrewala Oct 25 '11 at 18:17
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If you can get 5 on top of your deck you'll draw 10 cards every time, virtually guarantee you get a Potion, and repeat this eeeeevery turn. –  lilserf Oct 25 '11 at 21:48
    
Man, I dislike this card; it's so overwhelming most of the time it shows up that it makes me wonder if it was actually playtested. My group nerfs it such that you need one Potion PER Alchemist card you're returning to the top of the deck. –  BlairHippo Oct 28 '11 at 16:12
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4 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

In the short term, cards that make him discard cards are the best way to go. Minion is the best because it makes him discard all of them:
Minion Card

Other cards that help in the short term:
Torturer Militia Goons
(sadly, Ghost Ship does not)

In the long run, there are several strategies:

  1. If Embargo is in play, Embargo Alchemist early on.
    Embargo Card

  2. Destroy his cards using Saboteur or Swindler.
    Saboteur Card Swindler Card

  3. Destroy or steal his money using Thief or Pirate Ship. Note: These two cards will also flip his top two cards even if they aren't money.
    Thief Card Pirate Ship Card

  4. Give him Curses, or use Ambassador to give him unhelpful cards. Ambassador Card

One last note: Each time he buys an Alchemist, he's buying another action card. If he's buying action cards, he's not buying money cards. As bad as it sounds, Alchemist-heavy can often be defeated by Big Money decks, even if they have 5 Alchemists in their hand (and thus essentially start with 10 cards).

Also, make sure he isn't putting the Alchemists on top during turns he doesn't have a Potion in play.

Edit: It's been a while, but one thing I noticed I forgot to mention when I answered this in 2010: Alchemist is only +1 Action, which means unless they have a +2 Action card somewhere, they only have one action at the end of the chain.

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I didn't even think about Minion in this context. Brutal. –  Andrew Vandever Dec 15 '10 at 20:38
    
@Andrew: I've tried this strategy before, and the Minion thing was one of the things that stopped it. Not drawing a Potion when I needed it was another. Having said that... Alchemist and Apothecary work together fairly well... a little too well. –  Powerlord Dec 15 '10 at 20:42
    
I'm being slow - how does Minion especially mess up an Alchemist strategy? (I only have Dominion and Intrigue so I'm easily baffled by the newer cards ;) –  thesunneversets Dec 15 '10 at 21:15
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@thesunneversets: Alchemist's power is that, if you had a Potion in play, you may put it back on top of your deck at the end of your turn (before the draw phase). Thus your draw it again for the next hand. Discarding your hand with Minion forces anyone with more than 4 cards to discard their hand as well... which includes up to 5 Alchemists they played in their previous hand. –  Powerlord Dec 15 '10 at 21:48
    
@thesunneversets: The person playing the Alchemists wouldn't be the one playing the Minion. The person playing against them would be. The clean-up phase always consists of discarding all cards you have in play, then drawing 5 cards. Since discarding happens first, the Alchemists would be put on top of the deck, then drawn. So the person playing Minion would force the other player to discard the hand containing the Alchemists. –  Powerlord Dec 15 '10 at 22:18
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Possession is great for making Alchemist fizzle. Attacks like Militia, Goons or Torturer would also help significantly, as would anything that would help you cram Curses, Estates and Coppers into his deck. If he's managing to get five Alchemists going, Masquerade could be fun, although by that time it may be too late.

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If you're playing without Colonies, then Alchemist is often a weak card. The opportunity cost of buying the 2 Potions the strategy needs is quite big and a non-Potion strategy will be able to build an insurmountable lead in victory points if there are no +Buy cards on the board for the Alchemist strategy to catch up.

Just buy a single Smithy/Masquerade/Envoy+treasures and expect to beat the Alchemist player 8 games out of ten...

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Powerlord's answer is quite good. I'd add Masquerade to his list of effective counters, particularly if you can combo it with Goons or Militia. (But then again, comboing Masquerade with either of those is ALWAYS a good time. :-) )

When playing in Isotropic, I usually beeline for Alchemist when it's available. Usually the other player does the same thing; I rarely lose when he doesn't, but it DOES happen, even when none of Powerlord's anti-Alchemist cards are in play. If you've got a set lacking any +buys and that has other powerful cards, you can defeat the Alchemist if you can get to the Provinces before his deck hits critical mass. In a 2-player game with no extra buys, an early two-Province edge can be damn near insurmountable.

On the other hand, if you don't get that edge, once he goes critical he'll be drawing his entire deck every turn. Alchemist is one of the few cards in the game I regard as simply broken.

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