Almost every strategy I have ever read on Dominion, although disparate in many ways, unanimously agree that not only is buying copper a bad thing, but that you should do whatever is in your power to utterly destroy any that you already have in your deck.

One would think that, being both the cheapest and the most plentiful stack in the game, it would be more useful. Or useful at all, really.

With the exception of a Gardens deck, wherein stuffing your deck with as many cards as it can physically hold is considered advantageous, are there any situations where buying copper is more help than hindrance?

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    I've played so many games where inexperienced players are continuously in the mindset "great, I've got an extra buy, I'll use it to take a copper". I've never seen one of these people win. I don't doubt there are some viable Copper-based strategies, but you have to really think through what you're doing. The first lesson to learn in Dominion is that a card can have more of a negative effect just by taking up space in hands you draw than the positive effect it provides, and Coppers pretty rapidly become one of those cards. Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 9:23

10 Answers 10


Never. (Note: Many expansions have been released since I first wrote this answer, there are more exceptions than I list here, but the general principles apply.)

Well, almost never. If you have to ask, the answer is "never". Don't buy copper unless you've got a specific strategy that will make it worthwhile. Some new players have a strong urge to use all their buys, or at least to buy something every turn, but buying nothing is better than buying Copper almost always.

OP mentions the Gardens exception in the question; other cards that can be used effectively with Copper include Goons and Forager. If your target buys aren't too expensive (say $5 or less), then Coppers can help you hit $5 consistently; this applies to Duke/Duchy, Gardens, Ill-Gotten Gains, etc. If, however, you are hoping to buy cards costing $6 or more, Coppers hurt.

New players sometimes make the mistake of thinking more money is better, so they'll buy a Copper with a leftover buy. This is bad. The money in your typical hand is what matters, not the money in your deck. With 5 cards in your hand, adding more Coppers reduces your buying power unless your deck is really bloated (maybe with Curses/Ruins). New players quickly learn to hate a hand full of Coppers when they want to buy a Province or a Gold and stop making this mistake.

When you draw a card, are you thinking please, please, let this be a Copper? If so, then maybe you should buy Copper. If you'd prefer a Copper to what you typically do draw, go ahead and buy Copper. More often, you are disappointed when you draw a Copper - this is your cue to not buy Copper.

Selected Examples

There are cards that make Coppers better, but players with some experience often overestimate their power. Examples include Moneylender, Coppersmith, Bishop, Mine.

  • Moneylender can be a great card. New players may think it's a great card because of the $3, but the real value of Moneylender is the trashing of Copper. It shines in the absence of more efficient trashers because it cleans your deck of Copper. Since Moneylender is a terminal action, buying several Moneylenders and then buying Coppers to feed them is not a viable strategy by itself. It requires 2 cards and an action to generate $3; a hand with two Silvers instead of Money Lender + Copper has an extra $1 and an extra action. Even Silver + Money Lender without a Copper can be better than Copper + Money Lender if you've got a different action card worth playing. Spice Merchant and Miser are similar.

  • Coppersmith - there are decks in which Coppersmith can work very well (@BlairHippo brings up Apothecary/Coppersmith), but it takes more than just Coppersmith. You need a lot of card draw to make an engine out of Coppersmith, but card draw helps almost everything so there are usually better strategies on the board.

  • Bishop can convert Copper to VP, which is great. But anything costing $2 or more gets you more VP. With extra buys, you'd be better off buying Estates than buying Coppers to feed to a Bishop.

  • Mine is like Money Lender in that what makes it a good card is that it gets rid of bad treasure, replacing it with better treasure. If you buy more bad treasure to feed to a Mine, you're missing the point.

The themes above are that some cards let you trash Copper for some bonus. The main value in using them is trashing Copper. If you buy more Copper, you are undoing this work.

  • Counting House/Travelling Fair is an effective strategy that is Copper-centric.

Of course, if you have a bunch of activated Cities (lots of actions and cards) and a few Goons (lots of buys, rewards for buying), go ahead and buy some Coppers, and throw in some Moneylenders/Coppersmiths/Spice Merchants too! But if you've got a good Goon engine going, you don't need me to tell you that you shouldn't normally buy Copper.

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    Adding to your contrived example: if I'm playing a Pirate Ship strategy, I might Ambassador some Coppers over to my opponent in order to give my Ship another target and might eventually need to buy a Copper in order to give my Ambassador more fodder. This is almost certainly not the optimal way to play an Ambassador/Ship strategy, but it's possible. Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 19:26
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    GOONS! +1 Nothing quite like throne rooming Goons...
    – Malachi
    Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 21:12
  • @Malachi Throne-rooming Goons is nice for extra money and extra buys, but doesn't work for extra VP. (The Prosperity rule book states this explicitly, it's due to the wording on Goons "While this card is in play," with Throne Room or King's Court you can play the card multiple times, but at the time you buy there is only one copy of the card in play. Contrast with Bridge, which has no such caveat.) Playing multiple Goons cards is the only way to make things truly ridiculous. Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 23:01
  • But the extra money and extra buys does give you more VP, despite being only 1 VP per buy per Goons in play. Maybe I just find that more fun than most.
    – Malachi
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 22:11
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    You may want to add Aventures's Miser to the list of cards you may want to buy Coppers for. Miser gives you the choice of moving a Copper from your hand to your Tavern mat permanently, or gives you +$1 for each Copper on your Tavern mat.
    – Powerlord
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 19:53

Rarely. The problem with having Copper in the deck is that it takes up space and only produces $1. In a Province game, you need to generate $8 and you only start each turn with 5 cards, which means that each card needs to result in an average of $1.6 in order to afford Provinces. Figuring out the value of action cards requires a lot of math dealing with what else is in the deck, but Treasures are easy, and Copper is well below the $1.6 average.

There are exceptions. Gardens is the obvious one, although most Garden strategies will only buy Copper if they can't afford a $2 card, since the Gardens slows you down in drawing to the cards that give you extra gains/buys (like Workshop or Ironworks).

Goons is an exception. When you have multiple Goons in play, buying a Copper is worth at least 2VP. Compare that with Harem, which is worth $2 and 2VP, and costs $6 to purchase. 2 VP + $1 is a steal. Buying Copper when you only have 1 Goons in play is more situational. If you have a Watchtower in hand so you can trash the Copper, you definitely want to because it's a free VP; if you aren't going to finish cycling through your deck, you definitely buy Copper; if it's early in the game, you probably don't because buying Copper decreases the chance of being able to put together a multi-Goons turn, which is where the real VP explosion happens.

Other exceptions: Apothecary decks will usually want to buy a couple of Coppers throughout the game. Horse Traders + Duke decks only need to produce $5 consistently, which can be done with HT + 2 Coppers + whatever else, so Coppers can help that deck (although no one is certain of when the optimal time is to start purchasing Coppers). If you have a Trader in your hand (from the new Hinterlands expansion), you might choose to buy a Copper so you can trade it into a Silver, although you might not if you are trying to build a crazy engine and need your engine cards to be drawn together. Coppersmith obviously benefits from Copper, but that's a really tough engine to put together for lots of reasons.


shujaa's answer is quite good, and I'd chime in with a few other things:

The Apothecary/Coppersmith combo is quite dangerous, and can give you some damn big turns if you can get some other card draws and +buys into the mix.

If you're pulling most of your deck and have Moneylender or Spice Merchant, it may be worthwhile to use stray +buys on Copper just to keep them fed. Bishop too, but shujaa is right that you're better off tossing Estates or other $2 cards into that wood chipper.

If your deck is utterly polluted with Curses and Estates that you can't get rid of, it may be worth buying Coppers just to make the ghastly suck less dense. Of course, you're probably going to lose pretty hard anyway, but I prefer to go down swinging.


One strategy that sees a lot of play in our group when Goons is around is to use any extra buys for Coppers to get the extra points. This works best when you have other things in your deck to clear the Coppers out afterward.

We've also seen Chancellor/Counting House used rather effectively once or twice.


I am the furthest thing from a Dominion expert. I have no simulators, no statistical analyses, and no desire to play thousands of games just to answer this question.

But I have played more than a couple of games and I sometimes find it advantageous to buy copper. In situations where there is something consuming copper - like a Mine, or even better - a Moneylender, I frequently find myself taking a copper as the second Buy on a turn when an action has yielded an additional buy. Because I know that later on, I'll be able to use the copper to power a good ability.

It doesn't mean I take the free copper every time, but especially when the Moneylender is in the mix, I try not to run too low on them.


If you're playing the Golem/Counting House combo you'll want to buy 1 Copper (or 4 in a Colony game). It works like this:

Play Golem, find your single Counting House, but you find no other actions and discard the entire deck after which Counting House puts all Coppers in your hand and you buy a Province/Colony. This strategy is actually quite weak because it needs too much time to set up on average.

  • I'm not sure promoting a weak answer is very helpful. Are there situations where this would be useful?
    – Pat Ludwig
    Commented Nov 10, 2011 at 4:52
  • The Golem/Counting House combo is weak in competitive environments, but if you're playing casually, it has a good chance to win and it's a lot of fun...
    – Geronimoo
    Commented Nov 10, 2011 at 10:17

The problem is that people think of copper as representing "more money". Instead it represents "one of my five cards will only be $1 more frequently than before".

That might still have made it OK, except most cards, in fact, practically all of them, are of more value to you than $1. So you are ensuring you get LESS ACTUAL VALUE in your hand on average when you buy a copper.

That is also why people will turn down buying a card at all even with plenty to spend. It may not combine well, or it may dilute, the typical hand of cards they are getting from their deck.

  • This doesn't really answer my question. I already understand the reasoning behind not buying coppers in general; the question is about determining situations in which buying copper is actually useful.
    – goldPseudo
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 0:02
  • Sorry, only slept a few hours last night. As I mentioned in another comment it can be useful combined with a deck of Foragers as they will need a lot of trashing fuel. Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 0:07

The one base-game situation in which Copper is the most advantageous thing to buy is a game where there are no $2 cards on the board, but the Mine card is, and you get a 5-2 start. The only other real option for your 2-hand in the first run through your deck is an Estate, and the only thing worse for your early and middle game than an extra Copper is an early Estate.

This is a fairly unlikely but possible scenario, and it's the best one I can think of in the base game to make a Copper worth buying. The Mine essentially turns all your Coppers into Golds through the course of the game (of course as you build you'll want a couple extra sprinkled in), so having an extra Copper in your deck just makes for one more Gold after two actions with the right hand combination.

Even in this scenario, many other Dominion players would rather skip their second turn than buy a Copper. A Mine is very expensive, requires a turn to buy it, then two Actions to turn each Copper into Gold. Therefore, Mine works best in "engine" games based on action-chaining using a Lab or Village/Smithy so you can have as few of them as possible. Similarly but different, Moneylender only works on Copper, so you don't want more than one in your Deck unless the Mountebank from the Intrigue deck is in play (the Mountebank scatters Copper around like confetti; the curses generally take care of themselves as the Mountebank can be countered by trashing one, but the Copper builds and builds and you need some way to trash it). You'll probably end up spamming Village/Smithy or Laboratory to find your Moneylender and a Copper, spend an Action to get rid of it, then either buy a Silver or spend one you found by deck-cycling and buy a Gold.

In any board where Chapel exists, forget trying to upgrade Coppers; Silver/Chapel (or Chapel and a +Card/+Action like Lab or Village), trashing your initial Estates, then buying enough Silver to start buying Gold (alongside a small +Card/+Buy engine to make the best use of all the Treasure you'll have), is the dominant Big Money strategy when there are no attacks on the board. Anything you could build to upgrade or even get something useful from your Coppers through the early game will be left in the dust by a player who simply trashes them as soon as he has something better, thus creating a lean, predictable, rich early deck.

The only other base-game scenario I can think of where having some extra Copper in your deck might be useful is when someone's spamming Thief as a "whammy" counter to the "Big Money" strategy above. If at least two other players at the table are building a Treasure-dense deck, Throne Room/Thief is hilariously invaluable by netting you a number of decent Treasure cards each turn. If you're going with a Buy-heavy engine against a Thief-spammer, using the extra early Buys to pick up a little extra Copper will further decrease the chances of Thief getting anything good, while not being totally useless in a Village-Smithy engine that can put most of your Treasure in your hand any given turn.

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    I'm almost sure it's better to buy nothing than to buy a Copper even in that case. One big mistake that new players in general make is thinking that they always have to buy something, or that they always have to spend as much as they can afford.
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 21:36
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    "The Mine essentially turns all your Coppers into Golds through the course of the game" -- not exactly. It turns some number of them into gold, so buying more copper means there's going to be more copper left in your deck. (Also, buying copper to make Thief worse doesn't really make sense. You're doing more damage to your own deck than to your opponent's.)
    – Cascabel
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 2:15

When you play a few Misers you want one more copper to reach 8.

And it's quite often worth buying copper when you have Merchant's Guild in play. Those coins are really good if you know when to use them.


I sometimes buy coppers to replace ones I've trashed when using the moneylender card. I generally only do this in early to mid game play in order to build up my gold supply. Once your deck starts building, however, the chances that your moneylender will be in the same hand as your coppers are slim, so I'd stop getting them and try to rid yourself of the money lender for a more useful card (mining if you can is not bad)

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