The Phoenix of Tichu

The Phoenix of Tichu is arguably the strongest single card, but it comes with a hefty cost. It compliments almost any hand, and certainly never hurts it.  Use it to make a run, a three of a kind, or simply beat that lone Ace that was played. It can be the glue that holds your hand together. This versatility is offset by its -25 point value. And unlike the Dragon, if you win the trick the Phoenix will come to roost with you.

It pairs well with the Mah Jong, improving the odds of an initial low card run.  While it can’t be used to explicitly fulfill a wish. (e.g. If someone wishes for a 5, I do not have to play the Phoenix as a 5).  However, if there is a wish to be fulfilled and you have the card that was wished for, but need the Phoenix to play the same denomination (i.e. a straight, or a pair, etc.), then you must fulfill the wish.

Imagine the glory of playing the Mah Jong as part of a five card run, wishing for an Ace, and watching as the trick is not taken.  Then you lead out with your triple 7s and watch as your opponent plays two Aces and the Phoenix.

As with the Dragon and Dog, having knowledge of who has the Phoenix is boon.  After all, once the Dragon is out, the Phoenix can be the highest card.  As such, I consider passing the Phoenix as a viable default.  If my hand has lots of pairs, the Phoenix can likely help my partner glue together a run.  If, on the other hand, I have lots of singletons, I’ll keep the Phoenix.

Never pass the Phoenix to your opponent.  If you can’t make use of the Phoenix, then your partner can…I promise.

One thing to keep in mind, as you are playing out the hand, is that you can give your opponents the Phoenix points by simply holding onto the card until the hand is done.  This tactic is best employed when your partner has gone out first.  The reason being that if your partner goes out first, then your tricks are safely yours.  But don’t slack off if there is a chance for you and your partner to go out 1st and 2nd.

The Dragon of Tichu

Tichu’s Dragon is the most powerful singleton in the game.  You can count on it to win a trick…though a well-timed bomb can ruin this plan.

As the hand is played out, the singletons are played differently before the Dragon is played and after the Dragon is played.  This is particularly true when both members of one team knows where the Dragon is.  The possessor of the Dragon can very much take a “wait and see” approach to the trick, after all, they can always step in.

When you take a trick with the Dragon, pass it to the opponent that you believe will go out last; When in doubt pass it to the player who’s turn is furthest from yours.  At least this way, if your team goes out first, you might be able to reclaim the 25 points from the Dragon.

Keeping the Dragon can help ensure that you have a powerful hand.  Though passing the Dragon gives your team an advantage in regards to where the most powerful singleton is. Or it could simply mean “I have weak hand and I want you to call Tichu.” Never pass the Dragon to an opponent.

As with most plays in Tichu, you must weigh the use of the Dragon.  If the trick has 25 points on it already (5, 10, K) then does taking the trick justify giving the opponents 50 points?  Also, if you have the Dragon and are passed the Dog, what should you assume?  Personally, if I receive the Dog and have the Dragon, I will make sure that my partner sees the Dragon early so they can account for that knowledge.

The Dog of Tichu

Oh the ever loyal Dog.  Your simple function is to pass the lead to your partner.  Of course you must first have the lead.  Below are a few stratagems, many of which are rather self-evident.  After all the Dog is not that complicated of a card.

Never…

  • Pass the Dog to your partner if your hand is terrible.
  • Play the Dog if your partner has not called (Grand) Tichu and has yet to play a card.

Always…

  • Play the Dog if your partner has called Tichu.
  • Keep the Dog if your partner has called (Grand) Tichu.
  • Doggedly fight for the lead against your opponents if your partner called Grand Tichu and you have the Dog.

Consider Carefully…

  • Before you play a card and have received the Dog from your partner…
  • for your partner may be wishing to call Tichu
  • Before you play a card and have passed the Dog to your partner…
    • for your partner will be assuming that you will call Tichu
  • Before you pass the Dog to the opponent who called (Grand) Tichu…
    • for your opponents may go out 1st and 2nd.
  • Before you leave the Dog as your last play…
    • for what looks to be a “lay down hand” may be undone by a well timed bomb.
  • When you receive the Dog from an opponent…
    • for they may be working to weaken your hand.